The first direct face-off between the two US presidential candidates Tuesday, Sept. 27 ended in a slight edge for the Democrats’ Hillary Clinton versus Republican Donald Trump. But the score was not decisive enough to radically change the close tie prevailing in the polls when the contenders took the stage.
They still face two more debates on Oct. 9 and Oct. 19 before their final round – the Nov. 8 election for president.
Clinton grabbed the advantage by sustained attacks, when she was sharp, focused and personal. In laying out policy she was a lot less pointed, offering the voter no new or exciting ideas. Here her robotic aloofness came into play.
Trump, in contrast, spent the entire 90 minutes largely on the defensive against Clinton’s assaults – chiefly on race and his failure to publish tax returns. He was most vigorous when he accused President Obama and Clinton, as secretary of state, of creating the vacuum in which ISIS was formed, and never stopping its spread to 130 countries.
However, his lack of political experience showed at points when he should have hit back or hammered his opponent, such as on her private server, emails and her murky ties as Secretary of State with the Clinton Foundation. On those points, he fell back, showing weakness, and let her get away.
The next round of polls will indicate whether or not the debate changed the balance between them.
An Israeli moment came up over the nuclear accord with Iran, which Trump attacked as a bad deal, when Clinton claimed that Iran was just a week away from a nuclear bomb. This disclosure finally laid to rest the argument in Israel at the time by opponents of a military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities that Iran was still two years away from a nuke. That false argument proves to have been advanced as part of a concerted political campaign against the Netanyahu government.
Up until the first presidential face-off with her rival, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was unable to reverse the upward momentum in the polls of her rival, Republican nominee Donald Trump. Even after spending $60 million on her campaign, making countless clever, authoritative speeches based on her long experience at the forefront of American politics, she was unable to decisively prove to the American voter that Trump is unfit to serve as president and their commander-in-chief.
Neither could her campaign staff solve the mystery that the more she and her supporters attacked Trump, the more he gained in popularity.
The first of their three debates at Hofstra University in Hempstead N.Y. ranked as the greatest show on earth by TV audiences in every world time zone. Clinton saw it as her big chance to leap ahead and break out of the dead heat with her rival – app. 46 pc each in the polls and a tie emerging Monday among state electors.
Where the gap between them stood out most strikingly was on the social media, on which Trump won an audience of 11.5 million compared with Clinton’s 7.5 million.
Another gap proved easier to bridge: The podium for the debate, moderated by NBC's Lester Holt, was adjusted to lift Clinton’s 5 foot 4 height closer to Trump’s 6 foot 2.
There is plenty of controversy over whether or not the confrontational debates between the leading contenders actually determine the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election, or even what finally decides the majority of voters to come down for one candidate against the other.
The 90-minute debate Monday, Sept. 27, had three broad themes, “America’s Direction,” “Achieving Prosperity,” and “Securing America.”
But likeability, trustworthiness and temperament – how each of the two contenders comes across to the voter – – may this time, more than ever before, be the decisive factor in determining whether the Trump momentum persists or Clinton manages to turn the tide in her favor.
The next debates are scheduled for Oct. 9 and Oct. 19.
Trump has the advantage of an experienced TV showman and a larger-than-life personality; Clinton is a smooth talker with facts and issues at her fingertips from long stints in politics as first lady, senator and Secretary of State.
Her Republican rival with barely a year in politics has the enormous hutzpah to offer America not just change but a new movement to overturn the “rigged political system.”
Clinton preaches stability and the continuity of globalist policies, when this ideal has sunk the middle class in many Western countries, not just America, and the hunger for change is strongly evident. She also claims she knows how to fight terrorism from personal experience in government. “I was there” in 2011, when American elite troops execute Osama Bin Laden, she says.
But seven years later, an Al Qaeda terrorist, Ahmad Khan Rahami, set off bombs in Manhattan.
Trump, for his part, may go on at length about making American great and building a wall to keep illegal immigrants from stealing in from Mexico, but it is becoming more and more obvious that his real goal is to upend the ruling political system in the United States.
He is most convincing when, in his broad New York accents, he murders “political correctness” and vows to bury “the Washington culture.” If Trump is elected president – and means what he says – a great many political establishments, including national media and think tanks, will fall off their pedestals with a loud crash, and the new Trump popular movement will move in.
It is no wonder, therefore, that groups who subsist from the traditional US establishments vilify him day and night. But they have encountered the same dilemma as Hillary: however tellingly they lambaste him, hit him with well-deserved criticism or expose his many shortcomings, the higher he climbs in the polls.
But the real mystery will only be solved on Nov. 8, when the American voter shows whether the thirst for change is strong enough to risk backing an unpredictable, flamboyant New York business mogul for president.