Eduardo del Buey
La Jornada Maya
Martes 27 de septiembre, 2016
Over 100 million Americans were watching, and many more viewers around the world. Both candidates were in a statistical dead heat, and this was make or break time.
Trump had to look presidential. He had to give voice to the frustrations not only of the many Americans who support him, but also of undecided voters whom he had to sway. He had to set out a vision of where he wanted to take the country and how he was going to get there. He had to bring the conversation away from Clinton’s policy details and back to his vision, where he had excelled during the Republican primaries.
He had to tone down the insults and show himself to be a gentleman – tough but affable, with a Reaganesque ability to turn an attack on himself into a humorous response and make his points without sarcasm or malice. He had to let Clinton speak and not interrupt as was his style in previous Republican debates. Mostly, he had to avoid egregious lies and exaggerations to avoid being fact checked by Clinton or the moderator.
Clinton had other challenges. She had to connect with the audience. She had to humanize the policy issues and make them relevant to viewers. She had to be tough and stand up to any bullying. She had to describe what motivated her and why she thought she should win.
Clinton had to show Americans how she was going to take them forward rather than focus on how Trump would take them backward. She had to capture the imagination of voters and fire them up. She had to take control of the narrative and not let Trump drive the conversation.
She was in a far different place than she had been four weeks ago. She was statistically now tied with Trump nationwide and in key swing states where the Electoral College votes determine the winner. Trump had stopped slipping on verbal banana peels and was coming across as more focused and presidential on television.
Clinton’s health scare had also impacted on television, which is where voters form their perceptions of the candidates.
Clinton came on stage dressed in red and drew the attention of the audience. She walked over to Trump and then was first to greet the moderator. She seemed to own the stage at that point.
During the opening statements Trump seemed to be sniffling or snorting through his points (whether he had a cold or was nervous will be food for commentary). When challenged by the moderator to be specific, he spoke about taxing imports from American manufacturers abroad. Clinton attacked effectively, noting that the type of trade restrictions Trump is advocating led to the great depression. She deflected Trump’s attempts to interrupt effectively and made her points with specifics, underscoring the negative results voters could expect from Trump’s economic prescriptions, claiming that Trump cheered the housing meltdown in 2007. Trump flubbed on the tax returns question and refused to address the moderator’s question, leading Clinton to criticize Trump for bait and switch.
Clinton had the line of the night “Trumped up trickle-down economics”. She also went after Trump for his business practices, claiming that he had built his companies on the backs of suppliers whom he often didn’t pay.
Trump had trouble controlling his sighs and facial features, giving an impression of impatience and petulance while Clinton was speaking. Body language is essential in a televised debate with a split screen on which both participants are on for 90 minutes, and Trump seemed to have forgotten this principle of communications or else is simply unable to control his emotions. Lack of a good poker face can be deadly for a world leader, especially one who claims to be the best deal maker around.
Clinton spoke in positive terms about the African American community contrasting with Trump’s gloomy portrayal of that community. She outlined a number of detailed proposals compared to Trump, whose solution seemed to be “guns for everyone”. Few if any votes for Trump here.
Clinton successfully pivoted from Trump’s bluster to her messages in a poised and cool manner. In all, she appeared presidential while Trump appeared to be in rough shape.
In my analysis, Clinton came out on top of the debate. She outlined her vision for the future while Trump simply repeated his pronouncements to date with little strategic thought. Trump was Trump, and I found his performance wanting and un-presidential.
So there we have it.
I look forward to what the fact checkers will say over the next few days.
Did Clinton connect well with voters? We will find out during the next few days and weeks.
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