By Ashley Hunt
Last night, the American people saw the first matchup between our two major parties’ nominees – Secretary Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump. The much-anticipated rivalry was expected to break records for the most watched presidential debate ever with an expected 80 million viewers, compared to the 67 million that tuned in for the Romney-Obama debate.
In an office like LS2group, filled with political junkies on both sides of the aisle, the morning after a debate is always buzzing with talk of winners and losers, favorite one-liners, and breakdown analyses of policy and oratory skills.
Today, traditional and social media are abuzz with a Clinton win, but for me there wasn’t a clear winner or loser last night. One thing was clear though – the debate, in all, was underwhelming, and I don’t think we’ll see the polling shift too much either way in the coming days as a result.
Trump did a decent job of sounding “presidential” in the first half of the debate. He did a lot of talking (maybe too much), including quite a bit of interrupting Clinton in the first half, but largely kept his cool, unexpected for the candidate who’s known to be off-script and loud. That wasn’t quite the case in the second half, when he let Clinton push his buttons and we saw pieces of the Trump we came to know during the primaries.
In contrast, Clinton, who nearly always sounds “presidential” when speaking, stayed calm throughout the entire debate. Certainly, this was not the nasty matchup viewers were expecting, which is a good thing for both candidates. It was clear Clinton’s strategy was to appear as the calm, collected, and sane alternative to Trump, who has a reputation for going rogue and spewing outrageous statements.
Although calm and collected in oratory skills, Clinton’s nonverbal cues threw me off in the first half. She came off smug and condescending with her facial expressions, which wasn’t something I’d seen from Clinton, yet. These were mostly toned down in the second half, which might be why I felt she really shone in the last part of the debate.
Clinton, cool despite a few nasty remarks from Trump and her nonverbal cues, may have appeared to many viewers as the sane alternative to Trump, but for me, it was a little dull. There were several times that she could, and should, have had breakthrough moments and rallied her followers – but we didn’t see much of that in the entire 90 minutes.
In fact, there were very little applause lines at all. The first notable applause line came 59 minutes into the debate, when Clinton said she had prepared to be president and that was a good thing. Trump’s first notable applause line wasn’t until 9:34 p.m. (four minutes after the debate was scheduled to end), when he noted that Clinton had the experience to be president, but it was bad experience – perhaps his best moment of the night.
Trump did a good job sticking to this message throughout the debate, earlier commenting on Clinton’s 30-year stint in politics – a clear nod to his anti-establishment followers. We saw it again later in the debate, when he called Clinton a “typical politician,” with “all talk, no action.” Trump’s success thus far has been attributed to his status as an outsider, and clearly associating Clinton as a D.C. insider was a win for him.
In terms of the moderator, Lester Holt was average at best. He let the candidates speak too long and couldn’t control them – and he asked the tough questions to Trump (questions about his tax returns and Obama’s birth certificate) but didn’t give Clinton the same tough questions. Where were the questions on the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s “deplorables” comment? It’s my hope the next moderator will control the candidates and ask the tough questions to both candidates.
The first debate didn’t have any breakthrough moments, and even undecided voters probably didn’t leave with a clearer picture. We saw, as usual, a clearly prepared Clinton versus a wing-it-and-run-with-it Trump. Although entertaining enough for political junkies like the LS2groupies in my office, I’m guessing a few people tuned out when they realized we weren’t going to witness a fiery throw-down between the two candidates. And to those that did tune out, don’t worry – you didn’t miss much.
*Editors note: I am a registered Republican who is an undecided voter for the 2016 presidential election. This blog was written with as little bias as possible. The above summary reflects my personal opinion and does not represent the views of LS2group or my colleagues.