Trump bounces back in sec­ond de­bate

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By­ron York Colum­nist By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner.

You can make a good ar­gu­ment that Don­ald Trump won the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate with Hil­lary Clin­ton. You could also ar­gue that no one won. But it’s prob­a­bly beyond dis­pute that Trump’s per­for­mance will shut down Repub­li­can de­fec­tions from his strug­gling cam­paign, at least for now.

Say you were a Repub­li­can law­maker con­tem­plat­ing break­ing with Trump. You didn’t do it Satur­day, when sev­eral GOP of­fi­cials jumped, be­cause you wanted to see how Trump would do in the de­bate Sun­day night. Now you’ve seen it -- a more ag­gres­sive, hard-hit­ting and fo­cused ef­fort than Trump’s los­ing per­for­mance in De­bate One -- and you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to aban­don Trump now.

Con­trary to ex­pec­ta­tions, the de­bate did not be­gin with a punch-in-the-gut ques­tion about Trump’s lewd video. In­stead, an au­di­ence mem­ber ap­proached the is­sue in the soft­est, most in­di­rect way, ask­ing both Trump and Clin­ton whether they feel they are “mod­el­ing ap­pro­pri­ate and pos­i­tive be­hav­ior for to­day’s youth?”

Nei­ther can­di­date ac­tu­ally an­swered the ques­tion, but Trump did a far bet­ter job than Clin­ton of piv­ot­ing to is­sues -- the is­sues he wanted to talk about, in­clud­ing Oba­macare, ter­ror­ism and the trade deficit. In the first de­bate Sept. 26, Trump didn’t seem to know what a pivot was. The sec­ond de­bate marked the mo­ment he learned that ba­sic de­bate ma­neu­ver.

After the open­ing, co-mod­er­a­tor An­der­son Cooper ad­min­is­tered the punch-in-the-gut video ques­tion. “You bragged that you have sex­u­ally as­saulted women,” Cooper said to Trump. “Do you un­der­stand that?”

Trump dis­missed the video re­peat­edly as “locker room talk,” apol­o­giz­ing and say­ing he was em­bar­rassed by it. And then Trump piv­oted again, this time sug­gest­ing the video was a mi­nor is­sue com­pared to the threat posed by Is­lamic State.

Clin­ton had her say, ar­gu­ing that the video was not an aber­ra­tion but the essence of Trump. “I think it’s clear to any­one who heard it that is rep­re­sents ex­actly who he is,” she said.

With both sides hav­ing spo­ken, was the Trump video por­tion of the de­bate over? Not at all. The other mod­er­a­tor, Martha Rad­datz, took her turn at the ques­tion, and that’s when Trump brought up the Bill Clin­ton women.

Shortly be­fore the de­bate be­gan, Juanita Broad­drick, Kath­leen Wil­ley and Paula Jones were es­corted by Trump aides into the hall. They took prom­i­nent seats in the Trump sec­tion, but they were well out of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s line of sight. If Clin­ton had to rely only on what she could see, she wouldn’t have known they were there.

The bot­tom line was that Trump weath­ered the sex por­tion of the de­bate -- a de­vel­op­ment which would have seemed like a mir­a­cle just 36 hours ear­lier -- and showed strength in the pol­icy sec­tions. Be­fore­hand, many ob­servers would have pre­dicted Clin­ton would crush Trump in both.

Then Trump scored well on Oba­macare, and then on taxes, and then did OK on for­eign pol­icy. Fi­nally, he scored well at the end with an ac­tual com­pli­ment of Clin­ton’s tena­cious­ness.

And so Trump won, per­haps, or cer­tainly didn’t lose.

What does that mean? Well, if a cam­paign has one foot in the grave, sim­ply not dy­ing is a big win.

But if Trump thinks the de­bate will push the lewd tape prob­lem into the past, he’ll soon find that’s not the case. And of course, any new rev­e­la­tions -- and there were lots of ru­mors on Sun­day -- could start the whole Repub­li­can panic-and-bolt cy­cle again, with more GOP law­mak­ers head­ing for the ex­its.

But that’s for the days ahead. The bot­tom line Sun­day is that Trump was in an enor­mously dif­fi­cult and pres­sure-filled spot. If he lost badly to Clin­ton, the sig­nif­i­cant but man­age­able num­ber of Repub­li­can de­fec­tions from his cam­paign might have turned into a stam­pede. In­stead, Trump held things to­gether.

No, that’s not ex­pand­ing the Trump elec­torate. It’s not con­vert­ing in­de­pen­dent vot­ers. But for a man with his back against the wall, Sun­day night’s de­bate was a wel­come change in for­tune.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.