The Great Debate, the event that voters have anticipated for months and months, the event that was supposed to settle the outcome of this presidential election once and for all, has come and gone. And, what did it really resolve? In my opinion, not much.
Over the past two days, I have listened to over a dozen commentators, analysts and spin doctors, on various tv channels, expound ad nauseam. One network even provided the opinions of a focus group consisting of undecided voters. As we know, the 15% or so undecided voters will really determine the outcome of the election, and both sides have been courting them relentlessly. (For the record, this focus group gave a slight edge to Clinton.)
After all this, my conclusion is that who “won” the debate is largely in the eye of the beholder. For the most part, people begin with their own political preferences or prejudices and tend to view the debate through their own prism. Thus, if one is a Clinton supporter, she cleaned his clock. Trump was boorish, bullying, vague, prejudiced, had no knowledge of the issues, and demonstrated, once and for all, that he is unfit to be president.
If one is a Trump supporter, he “won.” He, an amateur politician, went toe to toe with a seasoned politician for 90 minutes, debating the issues, and held his own. The moderator’s choice of questions and topics favored Clinton. Holt spent too much time on the “birther” issue, which Trump had already conceded, and Trump’s taxes, and there were no questions on Benghazi, border security, Syrian refugees, and Clinton’s, emails, her foundation or her health. Clinton repeated the same old tired policies we have heard for years and years, policies that sound good but don’t work. Trump demonstrated that he will be the agent of change, and the country does need things to change, big time. Like I said, eye of the beholder.
In my opinion, there was no “aha” moment, no gaffe that people will remember, such as Nixon’s glowering image and “5 o’clock” shadow, Reagan’s “there you go again Mr. President,” Benson’s admonishing Quayle that he is “no Jack Kennedy,” or Dukakis’ whiffing on a rape question. I don’t believe there was anything said or done that will have a significant or lasting impact, much less swing the election. If you feel differently, I would like to hear it. So, it’s on to the next debate.
Remember, this was not a real debate where points are awarded and scores are recorded. Winners and losers are not determined by factual accuracy or debate points. It’s not about who “won” or “lost” the debate. After all, this is an election, not an intercollegiate debate competition. It’s all about the polls.
Did either candidate do or say anything to move the polls significantly? History has demonstrated that the “winner” does not always benefit in the polls. There have been many instances where candidates have “lost” the debate, and risen in the subsequent polls, and vice versa.
The post-debate polls will be published in the next few days. They will determine who really won or lost. Don’t expect a major shift.