Watching yesterday’s debate was a fascinating, frustrating informative look at this year’s election dynamic. The most important fact I observed was that Donald Trump was the first Republican since Ronald Reagan who knew how to stand up to the moderator at a debate and say what he needed to say.
Think of the pathetic image of Mitt Romney being corrected by Candy Crowley on something that he had gotten right. And that he meekly allowed her to get away with it. Compare that to Trump. Not only did he object to many things Hillary said (and while she was still speaking) but when Lester Holt tried to correct him on Stop and Frisk, Trump corrected Holt! It was a pleasure to hear and see. Trump may have been rambling and repetitive a lot of the time but at least he wasn’t cowed by the tag team of Clinton and Holt. He asserted his opinion and it was a breath of fresh air.
Trump was even able to overcome the overtly biased nature of the questions. Whereas Clinton was given neutral questions about her policy direction, Holt singled out Trump to defend his decision not to release his income tax records. And to his credit he skillfully turned it right around on Clinton by declaring that he would release his income tax records just as soon as Hillary recovered the 33,000 e-mails that she has deleted. It is this kind of verbal jiu-jitsu that distinguishes the effective debate performance of Trump from the weak passive performance of the last four or five republican presidential contenders.
Let me be clear. Trump is no Reagan. He is not a deep thinker. He’s a salesman. But he knows enough about scams to know that all of us are being scammed by the politicians. He is an American and I think he empathizes with the common man. Is he trustworthy? Not if you’re buying steaks or college courses. But that’s not what he’s selling. What he’s offering is his expertise in negotiating with sharp operators. Some commentators friendly to Trump believe he avoided overtly attacking Clinton on personal matters (such as Bill’s womanizing and assaults) because it might have seemed overly aggressive. I think they’re right. He came off as a relatively moderate version of Trump which robbed his enemies (i.e., all of the MSM) of their charge that Trump is irrational. No national poll has been issued since the debate but a number of instant polls have appeared and the majority show people believe Trump won.
We’re six weeks out and two more debates to go. Where do I think we are? I’m starting to think Trump is going to pull it off. I fully expect the NYT, WP and NBC will come out with polls showing Hillary up by some enormous amount (6 to 10 points). But if the other polls (LAT, Rasmussen, Reuters, etc.) don’t move much or at all then I think he’ll win. My hope is that in fact some of the polls will even show him ahead by a significant amount (3 – 5 points). But that’s not even necessary yet. Just the fact that he’s right on her tail will be enough.
In short I feel the Trumpocalypse is afoot. Take cover.