Donald J. Trump recently said that he needed to lose 20 pounds. Well, maybe if he would quit taking the bait every time it was offered, his dieting would be more effective.
Throughout tonight’s debate, Hillary Clinton seemed overly rehearsed, as if she were reading straight from a script — but she stayed on topic and managed to come across as competent and deliberate and, surprisingly, didn’t face many direct challenges. Hillary also seemed calm, cool and collected throughout. Trump seemed restless, unfocused, uncomfortable and maybe a little nervous. He careened from defensive tirades about his business dealings to non sequiturs that even included a reference to a “400-pound” hacker. Predictably, it appeared that Clinton had been preparing for this debate since high school and Trump hardly prepared at all. Perhaps in the next debate, she’ll offer more than buzzwords and tired proposals, and he will understand the value in being able to recite some facts.
Stylistically, the last 86 minutes of the debate were a lot like the first four or so minutes. Hillary plodded through a recitation of cherry-picked facts and canned lines, and Trump groaned one-liners and repeated himself. Trump had a few winning moments, but he didn’t show enough depth.
The bottom line: I call this debate marginally for Hillary. If you liked her before, you like her more now. And if you had doubts about Trump, he did nothing to ease your concerns. Even if you are a Trump supporter, you have to think that he left a lot on the table. He didn’t see the openings and he didn’t swing at the softballs that came his way. He never used the word “change,” he didn’t bore in on Hillary’s email scandal and he never got around to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s suspect integrity. Trump was inarticulate and rarely hit the bull’s eye. There were a lot of lost opportunities for Trump, but I don’t think Hillary changed many minds.
If just about any of the 16 other Republicans who competed in the GOP primaries had been on that debate stage tonight, they would have wiped the floor with Hillary Clinton. Trump’s ascendancy to the Republican nomination is still a mystery to me, but they have two more debates. A lot could still happen.