For all the anticipation of the first US presidential debate, there isn’t much consensus on what impact it is going to have. It may sound counter intuitive, but if anything, it may have moved Donald Trump closer to winning the White House on November 8.
On Monday, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went head to head for 90 minutes on NBC, on topics including the economy, trade, tax cuts, tax avoidance, emails and who has the stamina and temperament to govern. With the sheer volume of debates that were held through the Democratic and Republican primaries, there really shouldn’t have been any surprises. Clinton came across as polished, competent and policy-smart. Trump came across as rambling, defensive and light on specifics. That’s not to say Trump lost. In fact, many online poll sites – Time, Fortune, Breitbart, Drudge, The Hill and others – declared him to be the hands down winner. How could that be?
This has been the mystifying conundrum for so many political watchers. If you line up the candidates side by side, on paper, Clinton looks like the ideal choice. Nearly 30 years of political experience. Time served in the Whitehouse and as Secretary of State. Elected as Senator of the important state of New York. Knows both international and domestic issues in great depth. Lawyer by training. Expert fundraiser. What’s not to like?
There are a handful of issues that are no doubt causing Clinton trouble: her private email server, the Benghazi fiasco, shady donations to the Clinton Foundation. But it seems hard to believe that those issues would be enough to overshadow her experience and competencies to be US President.
The thing that seems to be missing, and it is a crucial thing, is personal charm. Her husband, Bill Clinton, had it. George W Bush had it. Barack Obama has it. Her rival, Donald Trump, does too.
It may be unfair that the race for the most important office in the world boils down to little more than a high school popularity contest, but those who think elections are decided rationally are going to be disappointed. What is it that gives Trump the edge?
Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, took to his blog on Sunday to explain why he switched his voting intention from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. For those trying to understand the Trump phenomenon, it is a must read and can be found here: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/150919416661/why-i-switched-my-endorsement-from-clinton-to. But he also assessed the first debate on the basis of what each candidate had to accomplish. He said Hillary had to look healthy, and instead she looked drugged, while her smile “seemed forced artificial and, frankly, creepy.” He said Trump’s challenge was to look less scary and he accomplished that by being defensive, debating poorly and – wait for it – losing the debate!
Ever heard the phrase heads I win, tails you lose? For the Clinton team that’s what this election must be beginning to feel like.
Who do you think will win the US presidential election? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org