|For The First Time in Debate History, The Candidates Didn't Shake Hands|
Last night Hillary and Trump had their second show-down. While the numbers are not in, Trump clearly did some prep-work for this one as he managed to both land some blows (using Republican talking points on Obamacare, and his counter-punch on Abe Lincoln) and, despite a bad first-30-minutes, maintain composure throughout the rest of the debate.
The Omnivore is going to score it a draw on points with some good news for Trump:
- The Bar, It Was Low: People were watching for a complete collapse and it didn't happen. He might not have proved deft but he didn't disgrace himself on stage.
- He Played To His Base: His base will have a lot to be happy about there. He threatened to put Hillary in jail (more on that later) and he had his Bill-Clinton-Accuser moment the hour before. Both are ill advised as general strategies but will strongly appeal to his constituency and were competently pulled off.
- The Moderates Debated With Him: He dodged around some questions and provoked the moderators to press him. That will play well for him in the coming days with Republicans.
The Net-Net: What Changed?
The general consensus is that Trump managed to stop the bleeding (defections of sitting Republicans) but has not expanded his base. The Omnivore holds that this is probably correct--and expects some tightening in the polls in the coming days. On the down-side, a lot of Trump's pitch was to Sanders supporters and while The Omnivore knows (and boy, does The Omnivore know) that the Sanders hard core will not vote for Hillary, it seems unlikely that he has convinced them to vote for him.
If he goes from down-six to down-four after this, it isn't really a turn-around.
Clinton's strategy has, thus far, been to win the post-debate cycle conclusively. This, with the help of a press-corp that widely considers Trump a political disaster in the making, seems likely here. Firstly, we have been warned that more (and 'worse') oppo-dumps are coming. If true, this is going to create a new firestorm that will eat up any post-debate glory.
Secondly, Trump said that he would jail Hillary Clinton if he won. One of the reasons that Obama did not go after the Bush administration for potential war crimes--even though the leftist who supported Obama dearly wanted that--was because it would fracture the country. Trump's strong-man-esque threat to appoint a special prosecutor to jail a vanquished opponent who about 50% of the country will have voted for would be as likely to end the republic as anything that has happened in this race so far. The fact that his base dearly wants that is less troubling than that he would pander to them on that count.
Finally, Trump did play the Bill Clinton Rape Card. In one sense this is necessary: he is about to be hit with all kinds of sexually-based opposition research and the only way to mitigate it is to get some on Clinton too. On the other hand, the oppo--will be directed at him (on the ballot) while his will be at Clinton's husband (not on the ballot) with a kind of inference-based "She threatened / enabled" this behavior.
Whether or not that turns out to be a good idea or not (it isn't), the attempt to execute this strategy in the first place is going to turn the personal-heat-level on the election up to a boiling point. That isn't good for the nation