I have had the luxury of reading what others are saying about the debate. Steven Rosenfeld said that the debate was a condensed form of what has been playing out in the campaign. Amy Davidson said that came off as a bully who failed in his attempt at intimidation. Adele M. Stan said that Clinton managed to expose Trump’s “racism, sexism and venality” and compared it the Billy Jean King-Bobby Riggs encounter.
Jeb Lund said that Trump failed to clear even the extremely low bar that had been set for him.
Clinton had to be commanding without being shrill, empathetic without being a teary woman, knowledgable without being a know-it-all and combative without being defensive. Trump just had to make sure not to murder moderator Lester Holt or call him the n-word.
Instead, Trump slunk beneath the lowest expectations. The man dismissed as the most ignorant, uncivil and unprepared major-party candidate in history could not have conducted himself more poorly if his goal was to vindicate all the haters and losers who bedevil him.
But these people are all opposed to Trump even before. While Donald Trump’s die-hard supporters are trying to put on a brave face, there were many suggestions that even those who support Trump were disappointed and it is these that are telling about his poor performance. Rudy Giuliani blamed a biased moderator and said that Trump should consider pulling out of the next two debates. Conservative John Podhoretz said that Trump’s debate incompetence was a slap to his supporters and that Trump fell into Clinton’s traps and set up ticking time bombs of future attacks against himself. Another conservative John Fund said that Trump was boring, which Trump would consider to be pretty much the worst thing you can say about him, and the kind of insult he hurls at others.
Republican Frank Luntz arranged a focus group of 27 supposedly undecided Pennsylvania voters (6 leaning to Clinton, 5 to Trump, 8 with no preference, and 8 who refused to support either) and their verdict was overwhelmingly in favor of Clinton.