The first Presidential debate is behind us and what more do we know today than a couple of days ago?
First, the debate garnered many fewer viewers than was predicted.
TV viewership was over 10 million fewer than watched the first Clinton/Trump debate in 2016.
Does this suggest that a lot of voters have made up their minds and don't see the need to spend their time watching the debate drama?
Interestingly, I found in talking to a number of friends that most only watched the first half of the debate. Most said they got tired of the back and forth bickering and changed the channel.
Second, we know that the Donald Trump that ran in 2016 is the same Donald Trump that stood on that debate stage this week. His personality and his unique brand of politics has not changed. He is brazen and blunt. He does not politely sit back. Trump is a fighter to the core, and if he is not punching his opponent, he is counter punching.
I personally believe that Trump would have been better served by letting Biden make his points despite the fact so much Biden said was untrue. Trump should have taken note of what Biden said and then come back with a stinging rebuttal instead of butting in and challenging Biden.
However, the debate format was not set up to facilitate this very well. There was no real time for rebuttal before Chris Wallace came in with his own follow-up questions. This effectively introduced a third party to the debate and Wallace was not there to do any favors for Trump.
Third, Joe Biden survived the night without any major gaffes or brain freezes. This by itself made the debate a win for Biden. He could not afford anything that fed the narrative that he was not up to the job.
However, at the same time, the general reaction I got from talking to friends was that Biden looked old, weak and fragile compared to Trump.
On balance, I would give Biden a win on points for the night but I doubt anyone will remember this debate in a week or so.
Other events will intercede and prove to be much more consequential in determining the final outcome of this election.
Why do I say that?
Let's go back four years ago.
The first Clinton/Trump debate had just taken place.
Hillary was consistently considered the winner of that debate by almost everyone.
In fact, I wrote a blog post after that debate in which I criticized Trump entitled "The Counter Puncher Forgot To Punch Back".
Donald Trump has famously stated that he does not punch first. He only counter punches when he is attacked first.
In the first Presidential debate tonight it seemed to me that Trump forgot who he was.
Perhaps it was because he had been told incessantly that he had to show a Presidential demeanor and a calm demeanor. It might have been because he did not expect so many offensive blows from Hillary.
The reason does not matter.
What I saw tonight was a counter puncher who forgot to punch back.
Hillary Clinton was on the offensive with every answer.
However, instead of counter punching, Trump looked like he was employing Muhammed Ali's "rope-a-dope" strategy where he just went into a reflexive defensive strategy.
|Source: Rasmussen Reports|