So, it finally happened. The TV debate we’ve all been waiting for. That thrilling, momentous occasion when the two most unpopular presidential candidates in the history of the United States of America came together to convince the public who not to vote for. An event to remind all Americans that they have a choice to make this November, a choice between an old, deeply narcissistic, mega wealthy hypocrite… or Donald Trump.
In what hardly comes as a surprise, most media pundits are calling a victory for Hillary, however, the majority of online opinion polls tell a slightly different story. Personally, I’d recommend we take these polls with (to use Trump’s favourite adjective) tremendous skepticism, mostly because they’re only likely to represent the kind of people that read specific sites, and not the overall public opinion. For instance, Breitbart.com (labelled by former employees as “Trump Pravda” due to its overwhelming editorial bias towards the Republican nominee) unsurprisingly has a poll that shows him leading by about 50%. The Hill meanwhile shows Trump leading by a smaller, yet still significant margin of 20%, and Variety by about 10%.
Basically, while the details are hardly scientific, we can more or less conclude that most people thought Trump won round one of the presidential debates. The direct contradiction of this opinion with that of the pundits is easily understandable. From a professional point of view, Trump was a wreck. Despite a strong start, he waffled, failed to reasonably address criticism, found himself accused of racism, got into an argument with the moderator over facts and finished with an absolute mess of a final statement. Yet most people still ranked him as coming out on top, and I can’t help but largely agree with them.
Despite having plenty of practice from her multiple one-on-one showdowns with Bernie Sanders, not to mention what was probably an ungodly amount of media training, Clinton is still an absolutely terrible debater. While attempting to appear exceptionally well prepared, she mostly stuck to her script, failed to properly hold Trump to account in what should have easily been a series of open goals, and sometimes even came across as outright boring. We currently live in a time when a lot of people simply despise the “typical politician”, and there is no one more stereotypically politiany than Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s style meanwhile was the complete opposite of his opponent. Keeping up with the “teleprompters are evil, tell it like it is” attitude, Trump mostly seemed to make things up as he went along, a strategy that certainly worked a lot better in the primaries when he had somewhere around eleven thousand opponents and a lot less time to speak. Whereas before, Trump could channel his core message into short, effective sound bytes, now that he was required to address topics for minutes at a time basically without interruption (a favour he certainly didn’t return to Clinton), Trump often found himself going on weird irrelevant tangents in order to fill the time. In a way, you could basically argue that Hillary chose to stand back and watch as The Donald slowly dug his own grave.
Unfortunately, Trump seems to be a master of talking at length at the same time as saying practically nothing. While discussing cyber security, he exclaimed that “We’ve lost control over the things we used to have control over”, a statement so utterly and absolutely meaningless, yet still somehow strangely convincing. Another unexpected stroke of genius emerged as Trump actually managed to come out on top when Hillary accused him of paying zero federal tax. His response was something along the lines of “well, yeah, I’m merely taking advantage of the broken system. That shows that I’m smart, it shows I know where the problem lies, and what needs to be fixed”… Quite hard to argue with. In conclusion, both were pretty terrible, but at least Trump’s blend of simple, effective messaging and brilliant evasion tactics was a step above Clinton’s over prepared talking points.