What makes a winner? Towerlight columnists weigh in on the first presidential debate

By: Matt Teitelbaum &  Dylan Brennan

Teitelbaum: 

Sept. 26 was a good day for Hillary Clinton. She played a sort of low risk, preventative defense in her first bout with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

With a few exceptions, she never went for Trump’s jugular with a zinger. Instead, she tried to look dismissive of him, at times even visibly joyful at his testiness. Testy Trump is what Clinton and her team wanted, and it’s exactly what they got on debate night.

Clinton also appealed to key voting blocs with an impassioned defense of a Latina beauty contestant whom Trump allegedly referred to as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” This was her strongest moment, and it was one of the few where she stepped out from an otherwise measured demeanor.

Many observers had wondered if Trump might trot out a sort of Trump 2.0 at the first debate. After all, it was to be the first time many Americans would fully come to terms with the fact that one of these two individuals will be elected the next leader of the free world.

Whether he was even attempting to do so or not, Trump failed to look presidential. He looked like the same Trump who verbally attacked his opponents in the Republican primaries and referenced the size of his genitals in previous televised debates.

It wasn’t a knockout blow, as Trump was attentive and aggressive enough to prevent the debate from becoming a true embarrassment to his campaign. However, his clear and decisive defeat by Clinton before a massive television audience is likely to blunt the momentum he had going into it.

Clinton saw her lead from the summer depleted to a dead heat with Trump in recent weeks. Now, the polls will likely shift back in her direction. If she wins the remaining presidential debates on Oct. 9 and 19, it’s hard to see how Trump could cobble together enough votes to win the election.

There is also a vice presidential debate between Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov, Mike Pence on Oct. 4. History shows this debate is unlikely to significantly sway the electorate.

Put frankly, if the race is tied before the debates and one candidate decisively wins all three, they’re all but certain to win the election. This is rarely the case, however.

President Barack Obama clearly lost his first presidential general election debate to Republican Mitt Romney. He went on to rebound in later debates and win the election.

Trump will need to demonstrate a similar ability to bounce back from a sub-par performance, if he wants to win.

 

Brennan:

The debates last week didn’t help me decide who to vote for president next month at all. Clinton was her usual smarmy self, acting all calm and collected, but still leaving her sincerity at the door. Trump was his usual self, acting boisterous and rude, and still acting like he was the victim.

I’ll even eat my words from my last article by stating that Trump looked sicker than Clinton, with his constant water-drinking and sniffling. All that the news is covering after the debates is the years-old scandals and controversies that have nothing to do with the presidential position at all. Neither of these should take up the airwaves when we have so many problems at hand in 2016.

If you are like me and could care less about who they are as people, but rather who they are as leaders, then let us go to the small portion of the debate where they actually discussed important things. These issues were the economy, race relations and national security.

The one that the American public usually cares about the most is the economy, and thankfully that was before the mud started to fling. Clinton kept her ‘everything is great’ stance, while Trump kept his ‘everything is terrible’ stance, so you can wager who I think won that argument. With a national debt expected to be over 20 trillion by year’s end, how could anyone say things aren’t terrible?

The race relations debate was pathetic to me. Clinton kept going off on weightless soundbites that everyone has heard before, while Trump proposed new and unwise police tactics, specifically stop & frisk. Stop & frisk was used in New York City but was later dropped when the courts deemed it unconstitutional due to the high percentage of minorities that were targeted.

One of the rare points in the debate that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton actually agreed upon was on improving the relationship between police departments and the communities they serve. Reinstituting Stop & Frisk would further polarize the two sides and lead to more distrust.

The third topic was barely addressed at all. By then, an hour had gone by, and Trump’s thin veil of patience had long been cast away. The last half hour was basically a verbal food fight, where no productive conversation was discussed.

To keep it short, I’ll just say that the debate was practically pointless, and you didn’t miss anything worthwhile if you didn’t see it. All we got was more reason to despise either candidate more. If you think that Clinton was more calm and collected and didn’t go on tirades, so she should be president, fine.

If you think that Trump brought up very good points and is likely more fit to fix the economy and possibly defense, and therefore should be president, fine. But I would honestly base your choices for voting on nearly anything but this debate.

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