Adam Quinn of the University of Birmingham offers a snap breakdown of the third and final US Presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton:
Trump went in losing badly, needing to do something to turn it around. How did he do?
Well, he was calmer for longer than in either previous debate. He spoke in a more normal voice. He came across as a more normal candidate early on. He managed to get through his talking points on guns, Clinton’s e-mails, trade, and other issues. But, but, but….
Trump overshot on abortion. Then Clinton turned the immigration section into a hammering of him for his failure to condemn Russian espionage, and segued into his trustworthiness with the nuclear button.
And Trump failed to say the obvious and necessary things to help himself.
The “fitness for office” section was an unmitigated catastrophe for Trump. Blanket denials about the accusations of sexual assault against him, no shred of the contrition or sensitivity needed to win women over.
Then the kicker: Refuses Point-Blank to Say He Will Concede If He Loses the Election. Says he’ll “keep you in suspense”.
That’s going to be the headline. In a sense the rest is details.
After that, the section on foreign policy showed up Trump’s usual bluster and incompetence, while Clinton hammered home the scale of her experience. The discussion on the economy gave Trump a bit more scope to get back to his talking points, but it also let Clinton point out that his avowed policy would see the deficit balloon and would bring tax cuts for the richest.
The closing statements summed up the divide: Clinton made a explicit appeal to all Americans of all backgrounds and parties. Trump talks about…well, the kind of things he talks about. Oh, and he interrupts while Clinton is talking to say, “What a Nasty Woman”.
The weird thing is that, in a lot of ways, Trump had his best debate and was much improved – in tone, that is, not on substance – at least early in the debate. But he won’t have won over a single person in the key groups he needed — in broad strokes, anyone who is not a grievance-fuelled white man. And his biggest mistakes were so bad that he’ll be excoriated by the media from right to left all through tomorrow. Disaster.
The election was probably decided already, but even the slightest sliver of hope Trump might conceivably have harbored has been crushed. Stick a fork in this election — it’s done. The only question is how much damage has been done to American democracy by this dark farce.