Tuesday, September 27, 2016

debate postmortem

Based on my online reading of various sources, the presidential debate

1. was more lackluster than would've been expected for the fight of the century.
2. featured several missed opportunities for Trump to hammer Hillary on security issues.
3. featured a stronger Trump during the first 30-45 minutes, after which he fizzled.
4. showcased a healthier-than-anticipated Hillary (was she drugged up?).
5. was largely an opportunity for the candidates to lay out their talking points.

As I predicted, the Drudge poll shows Trump having won the debate, 92-8. This is, of course, a heavily skewed data set given that the poll-clickers are almost all partisan conservatives expressing their hardened support for Trump. Also, these clickers began clicking long before the debate was over, indicating that they were blindly voting for Trump no matter what.

At the National Review: "We Got the Debate We Deserved Tonight." It's a short piece, and fair, and a decent summation of how I felt about the debate after having followed the running commentary online.

You'll recall that Mitt Romney whomped a woefully unprepared and off-balance Barack Obama during their first of three debates, then Obama came back swinging in the second and cruised through the third. The sudden and violent change in momentum, from the first to the second debate, completely took the wind out of Romney's sails, and if that Romney documentary is to be believed, Romney's sudden deflation confirmed voters' suspicions that he hadn't really wanted to run for president to begin with. Based on what I've read, I'd give tonight's debate, ever so slightly, to Hillary, who cue-carded her way through the exchange and did indeed show off her superior command of facts (although she will, of course, be fact-checked to death online, as will Trump). The Donald, however, might be viewing this debate merely as a reconnoiter, so it's entirely possible he'll be pulling an Obama and coming out swinging in the second and third debates.

Hillary, for her part, probably came through the experience thinking, "That wasn't so bad." Word is that she prepped quite thoroughly whereas The Donald had unwisely chosen to wing it. The more I thought about the debate, the more I felt it was like the basic conflict shown in Rodney Dangerfield's 1980s-era comedy "Back to School," which is the story of an uncouth businessman who has made a living in the real world, but who now finds himself up against the snooty academic establishment as he tries to legitimize himself by obtaining a long-missing college degree. If you think of Trump as Dangerfield's character, getting no respect from either the media or establishment Republicans, and if you think of Hillary as representing the snooty academics (especially that tall, gawky British professor of business who keeps awkwardly hitting on Sally Kellerman's sultry English teacher), it all makes a bizarre kind of sense. Not that I'd extend the movie analogy so far as to say Trump, like Dangerfield, is the heroic protagonist, but the class* conflict strikes me as perfectly analogous. This election cycle, we're basically living out a 1980s comedy. Of note: Dangerfield's character gets his degree, but only after he actually buckles down at the eleventh hour and does the real work of studying and prepping for his exams. There's a lesson in here somewhere.

Right now, though, on my Twitter feed, people are jokingly talking about how we need to prepare for Trump's inevitable "Twitter ragefest," as one Twit is calling it.

I'm more interested in the lengthier postmortems that will be appearing online within the next few hours. The above-linked National Review piece is merely the first drop in the coming rainstorm. And just think: we've got two more debates to go. Joy.

*I anticipate some objections to my use of "class" here. The snooty British professor and Dangerfield's character quite possibly both belong to the upper class. That said, I believe the movie makes clear that the British prof looks down on Dangerfield's scruffy, untutored mannerisms and outlook; he sees in Dangerfield a man who doesn't deserve his prominence.

UPDATE: Yahoo News is calling the debate "fiery." Hmmm.

UPDATE 2: the leftie Huffington Post, just as naturally as Drudge, is claiming either that Hillary crushed The Donald (so says the site's front page with its screaming "ORANGE CRUSH" headline, or that Hillary "won by not losing," according to the more sober subtitle of this article. Take your pick.

UPDATE 3: Malcolm Pollack writes sarcastically: "What a pleasure to watch two such inspiring candidates cross hands in thoughtful debate! Can’t wait to see how the next few years are going to go." Like me, he scores the debate for Hillary... or more precisely, to "the team of Lester Holt and Hillary Clinton."

UPDATE 4: Huh. Trump's prestige on the Drudge poll is slipping. As of right now, three hours after the debate began, it's 82-18, Trump. It's still skewed, but the downturn is quite remarkable. Nate Silver's site, meanwhile, is now giving Trump 45% odds to win the election. That's quite the up-tick.

UPDATE 5: Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit thinks the debate was a draw.

UPDATE 6: Drudge poll now has Trump down to 80-20. Again, this is still massively skewed toward Trump, but the slope of the downward trend is what's interesting.

1 comment:

King Baeksu said...

I'm at the airport now on layover, so I'm going to try to keep this short.

I think Trump's strategy for the first debate was the rope-a-dope approach. $hillary unleashed all her major attacks against him, including the tax-return issue, alleged discrimination against tenants, sexism and his temperament. Trump managed absorb all those blows fairly well, and never seemed to lose his cool (or say something crazy that his political opponents could later use against him, as in the whole Khazir Khan brouhaha in August). In the next two debates, if $hillary brings up those issues again, he can simply say, "We've covered that already, haven't we? It's old news. C'mon!"

At the same time, Trump seemed to hold his punches several times, for example, not even specifically stating that she actually voted for the Iraq War, or was the driving force behind the invasion of Libya. Neither did he bring up the Clinton Foundation, or her long record of corruption in public office. And when he discussed Mar-a-Lago, he could have simply said, "I actually desegregated it when I took it over," but for some reason he avoided that key word and was rather oblique and vague about what had actually happened there. Feigned modesty, perhaps, in order to lure his opponent into a false sense of complacency later on?

$hillary actually has nothing to achieve during these debates except to draw blood from Trump, since her persona is overly familiar to the nation and everyone already has an opinion about her. Plus she's boring as fuck and people tend to tune out whenever she speaks, because she's just that predictable and well-known at this point. Trump, on the other hand, may have held back a bit tonight because if he'd been too aggressive, he would have come off as a "bully" and turned off many undecided voters as a result. He may also have been just a bit more conservative then normal as it was his first time up against $hillary and he was taking her measure, in effect. I think he was doing some "A/B testing" as well, seeing what did and didn't work this time so that he could go all in the next time around.

In short, this first debate was Trump laying the groundwork for the next time around, when I predict he's going to land some likely fatal knife wounds and body blows. For now, he stood his ground while at the same time demonstrating to independents and undecideds that he can remain measured in a high-stress situation and not say or doing something crazy. On the perception front, in other words, he arguably moved the ball ten or twenty yards closer to the end zone, while $hillary achieved nothing comparable. Plus Trump was arguably laying the groundwork for the next two debates, which is in his favor as well.

In short, advantage Trump. I think he knows exactly what's he's doing and will be very pleased with the night's results. $hillary, meanwhile, is probably feeling just a bit too confident at the moment, and may have no idea what's going to hit her the next time around.