First Presidential Debate Recap

Story posted September 27, 2016 in News, CommRadio by Tyler Olson

On Monday night Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump finally battled face-to-face in the first of a series of three debates to win over the hearts and minds of Americans. The debate came as Trump has closed what was a large gap in the polls to nearly a dead heat in recent weeks, making it an opportunity for the candidates to turn the tide of the election in their favor.

In the lead up to the debate it was reported that Trump was not preparing for the debate the way candidates normally do; with hours of policy research and mock debates against a stand in for the opponent. He was merely having general strategy meetings with his advisory team. Clinton prepared in a traditional manner. It showed.

The general consensus of nearly every analyst was that Clinton won the debate in a landslide. She came out swinging early, calling Trump’s plan for the economy, “trumped-up economics,” and accusing the New York businessman of lying regularly.

Trump responded by attacking former president Bill Clinton for approving NAFTA and Hillary for calling the widely unpopular TPP trade deal the, “Gold standard.”

This tone of attack from both candidates continued for the entire debate as they strafed each other’s records involving ISIS, cyber security, relations between minorities and the police, tax returns, and even the birther controversy.

Two moments that are likely to define the debate surrounded the stamina of the candidates and the relationship between minorities and police. Trump went after Clinton, as he has in the past, on her stamina and ability to execute the office of the presidency. In a fiery response, Clinton said, “As soon as he travels to 112 countries… and even spends eleven hours testifying in front of a congressional committee he can talk to me about stamina.” That line drew applause from a crowd that was explicitly told not to cheer at the onset of the debate by moderator, Lester Holt.

The second moment involved Holt himself. When asked how he would improve race relations in our country, Trump painted himself as a law and order candidate who would reign in violence in inner cities to protect minorities living in those unsafe conditions. To do that, he advocated for the return of stop and frisk policy as was implemented in New York City in recent years. Holt jumped in with a quick fact check. He reminded Trump that stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional and thus discontinued. This moment could reinforce in the minds of undecided voters that Trump lacks policy chops or it could feed into the Trump campaign’s narrative that the media is constantly against him.

In the immediate aftermath of the debate, CNN polled a group of debate viewers and 62% believed that Clinton won while just 27% believed that Trump carried the night. It should be noted, however, that the sample was skewed about twelve points in favor of Clinton due to the fact that a disproportionate number of Democrats tuned into the debate. Even so, that is a convincing victory for the democratic nominee. The real effect of the debate on the election will be seen starting on Wednesday when poll numbers from after the debate begin to trickle in.

Tyler Olson is a freshman print journalism major pursuing minors in Spanish and political science. He can be contacted at tso5043@psu.edu.