Most impartial observers awarded Hillary Clinton a solid victory on points in the first presidential debate on September 26th at Hofstra University, though they conceded that Donald Trump scored points on the economy and national security. Trump, however, spent far too much time focusing on baiting questions, both from Hillary Clinton and also Lester Holt, the moderator, who seemed to think having presidential nominees debate the “birther issue” is more important than debating how to fix the failing Obamacare exchanges. Still, a skilled debater can maneuver to those issues Holt didn’t bring up, but Trump didn’t take advantage of Clinton (and Obama’s) many liabilities. He definitely seemed to lack the bounce he received in primary debates from the energy in the room and crowd feedback. All in all, this debate was a giant missed opportunity for Trump.
I expect the first polls released after the debate to show a small bounce for Hillary Clinton, but this election is far from over, especially with two more debates. Just as Hillary Clinton has opened up other leads throughout the campaign, especially after the Democratic National Convention, only to see that lead evaporate, I think that we could see the same pattern given that voters are looking for something different and Donald Trump is the candidate who represents change.
Hillary Clinton laid out no new ideas, programs, or departures from the progressive agenda last night. She may have felt she didn’t have to (since Trump was going to self-destruct), but it’s fairly obvious that she is running for a third Obama term. Because she is running on a continuation of the Obama agenda, she is forced to argue that the status quo in this country is good, the economy is strong, and our nation is safe from outside threats. To anyone who has lived through the last two presidential administrations, that is pure fallacy, and is the entire reason for the Trump movement. Her arguments, though they were logical, well thought-out, and well-rehearsed, still represent a continuation of policies that have proved unpopular. Americans feel threatened by terror, disheartened by the current state of race relations, and though they hear stats about the “recovery,” they haven’t experienced that economic recovery themselves. Trust in government is at a historic low, and only 32 percent of Americans believe the country is on the right track.
As long as Hillary Clinton continues to paint a sunny picture of life in America, this election will stay close and Trump will be able to stay in striking distance.
Americans are angry on both sides of the aisle (look at the success of the Bernie Sanders movement), and Donald Trump is the only candidate remaining that matches how they feel. Clinton may be able to rack up large margins in California and New York, but this election will be won and lost in the electoral college-rich states of the Rust Belt, which have been hit hardest by globalization and economic hardship.
It should be an interesting next six weeks, to say the least.
Photo Credit: David Goldman/Associated Press