Trump solid in de­bate, but still needs im­prove­ment

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY CHARLES HURT

MHEMPSTEAD, N.Y. on­day night’s de­bate here was a tremen­dous vic­tory for Don­ald Trump, but his per­for­mance left plenty of room for im­prove­ment. Big pic­ture: Polls show sup­port for Hil­lary Clinton is col­laps­ing, and she des­per­ately needed to stanch the bleed­ing. She did noth­ing dur­ing the de­bate to change the tra­jec­tory of those in­creas­ingly bleak polls.

With states like Penn­syl­va­nia and Colorado in play this week, we could be talk­ing about states like Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin in play next week. That would put the race away early for Mr. Trump.

Mrs. Clinton’s pri­mary charge against Mr. Trump is that he lacks the “tem­per­a­ment” to be pres­i­dent. In an easy glide Mon­day night, Mr. Trump demon­strated other­wise.

He was per­fectly pres­i­den­tial, even if a bit un­pol­ished at times — just the way so many of his sup­port­ers love him. He was poised and even a bit man­nerly at times.

Per­haps a bit too man­nerly. But we’ll get to that.

Mrs. Clinton failed to do any­thing that will change the over­whelm­ing view of her that she is slick, cal­cu­lat­ing and out of touch. And her plas­tic smile and that prac­ticed, canned laugh — in­clud­ing a truly bizarre shoul­der jig­gle at one point — will only feed the no­tion that she is not re­ally all there.

In ad­di­tion, Mrs. Clinton failed to land any dev­as­tat­ing punches on Mr. Trump. She landed a few po­tent shots about his tax pro­pos­als and his tax re­turns, but noth­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary. And noth­ing any­where near as with­er­ing as every­thing ev­ery­body in both par­ties and the me­dia have al­ready hurled at the guy.

From the start the de­bate was lively and fiery. That was not be­cause of the mod­er­a­tor, and it cer­tainly was not be­cause Hil­lary Clinton was on stage. It was en­tirely owing to Mr. Trump’s pres­ence.

Some­thing about his swash­buck­ling man­ner al­ways puts peo­ple off-kil­ter a lit­tle, and the re­sult al­ways seems to be a de­bate that is more ro­bust and hon­est — if some­times a bit im­pre­cise.

As for mod­er­a­tor Lester Holt, he will be ex­co­ri­ated in com­ing days for his mul­ti­ple fol­low-up ques­tions of Mr. Trump and his fail­ure to ask even the most ba­sic ques­tions of Mrs. Clinton.

She also used up a num­ber of lines that she had ob­vi­ously prac­ticed ex­ten­sively — to lit­tle ef­fect.

“I know you live in your own re­al­ity,” she said at one point, but it was en­tirely lost in mud­dle.

But here is where Mr. Trump has a lot of room to im­prove.

In­stead of sim­ply pros­e­cut­ing the case against Mrs. Clinton, he du­ti­fully an­swered all of Mr. Holt’s ques­tions and re­sponded to all of Mrs. Clinton’s jabs — no mat­ter how silly.

Af­ter suc­cess­fully turn­ing ques­tions about his un­re­leased tax re­turns into ques­tions about Mrs. Clinton’s 33,000 de­stroyed emails, Mr. Trump du­ti­fully changed the sub­ject back to his tax re­turns and spent far more time ex­plain­ing that. For­get the tax re­turns and ham­mer away at the emails.

One of his sharpest mo­ments came when he re­peat­edly ham­mered her for an an­swer on whether the econ­omy and bad trade deals was the fault of Pres­i­dent Obama or for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton.

In truth, that is the en­tire crux of his cam­paign, and if he sticks with it, he will win.

He is most ef­fec­tive when he is re­mind­ing peo­ple that Hil­lary Clinton has been around on the na­tional po­lit­i­cal stage for the bet­ter part of three decades and only now is of­fer­ing to fix things.

“Why are you just think­ing of these so­lu­tions now?” he asked in pos­si­bly his best line.

A good run­ner-up was when he ac­knowl­edged that Mrs. Clinton has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence, “but it’s bad, bad ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The re­ally good news for Don­ald Trump sup­port­ers is that if we have learned noth­ing else from this elec­tion, it is that Mr. Trump is a fast learner. He was very good in this de­bate. He will be even bet­ter in the next. Charles Hurt can be reached at charleshurt@live.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter via @charleshurt.

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