Whew! We have just concluded the third and final presidential debate in this 2016 election cycle and my head is positively spinning with observations and opinions, and I’d like to try and articulate some points here on what we just witnessed. Rather than cite any other media analysis, I’m simply going to use the debate itself as a source and provide my own analysis of the events. So without further ado…
- The gloves were off. As I pointed out in a previous blog post, this has been one of the nastiest and even violent presidential races in modern history and tonight was really the first time we saw that bile manifest itself on the debate stage. From Trump’s “such a nasty woman” quip towards the end, to Clinton’s “Chinese steel” jab, the debate started out pointed and got meaner as the night went on. At certain points, I marveled at how Trump, Clinton AND moderator Chris Wallace all yelled over each other just to be heard.
- Trump did what he does best – generalized but emotionally appealing statements. Trump did do (at least for the first half) a pretty good job of tailoring his message to appeal to the voters in his constituency: pro-lifers, gun enthusiasts, anti-immigration folks.
- Clinton did what she does best – have an actual plan. One might say that there is no debate question in the world that Hillary Clinton isn’t prepared for, although I did think her attempt to pivot a question about her vague immigration policy to how Wikileaks and Russia were trying to influence the election was probably her weakest performance in the debate. Every question had a coherent and articulate response, backed up with facts that we can verify or call out via Politifact. Her approach was similar to previous debates – a calm and calculated demeanor (clearly she wasn’t trying extremely hard to sway opinions on her personality but just deliver a strong debate) with smiles and laughs sprinkled throughout. However towards the end Clinton did seem to get a bit more exasperated when she was continuously interrupted by Trump while trying to make points. Incidentally – Trump’s weakest performance of the debate in my opinion was the “You’re the puppet!” rant (although the “bad hombres” remark might come in close second).
- Wallace was a really good moderator. Going into the debate I was honestly completely vexed about how the Fox News anchor would handle the opportunity to have free reign in asking questions of both the candidates, and he was truly a staunch watchdog for both sides. He didn’t let up one bit, going after the toughest questions on the most serious issues and not once did he let a candidate get away with making a sloppy or unclear statement without pressing them for further details. Most all of the Twitter activity I monitored seemed to agree that while there were some notably comical parts of the evening, in general this was the most substantial and policy-rich debate of the series. He was balanced, well-informed, and at times akin to a drill sergeant. Maybe ease up on shushing the audience next time, but other than that kudos to you Mr. Wallace.
That about wraps it up. As one final observation, here are the currently trending topics on Twitter post-debate: