Tom Goodenough

Trump vs Clinton: The verdicts on the final debate

Trump vs Clinton: The verdicts on the final debate
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Donald Trump grabbed the headlines in last night’s debate by refusing to say whether he’d accept the result in the presidential election if he lost. But who actually came out on top in the showdown between Clinton and Trump? On Coffee House, Freddy Gray says Trump failed to land the knockout punch he needed - and many others agreed.

The New York Times said Trump showed a contempt for democracy in his remarks about the American electoral system. In its editorial, the paper said that the Republican candidate was ‘bullying’ throughout and offered ’another exercise in narcissism, bombast and mendacity’. Yet while the Times concluded that Hillary won, the paper sounded more hopeful than assured in whether others would agree:

‘One could only hope that this might be the last grand display of his gross unfitness to be president’

In its editorial, the Los Angeles Times described the Republican candidate as ‘Little Trump’. It suggested that while Trump was ‘relatively disciplined’ in the early stages of the debate, he quickly let his guard down. The paper said Trump appeared ‘thin-skinned’, ‘aggressively ignorant about the world and prone to spin conspiracy theories’. Old habits die hard, it seems.

The Wall Street Journal said the third and final debate was the most ‘civil’ so far - but pointed out that this was as much a testament to the moderator Chris Wallace, than either of the two candidates. Fortune magazine even went as far as saying Wallace ‘won’ the debate, suggesting that the outbursts of ‘unsavoury interruptions, ugly insults, and mostly unabated hostility’ only made the host look good.

Many commentators pointed out that Trump appeared on the verge of conceding defeat during the debate. John Cassidy in the New Yorker said that Trump’s attempt to suggest the electoral system was rigged was ‘tantamount to a concession of defeat in itself.’

And the New York Post’s John Podhoretz agreed. He said that Trump’s defeat now seems so inevitable after the final debate that Hillary could ‘take the next three weeks off’ and ‘spend the time taking the most luxurious pre-victory lap in American history’.

The polls certainly back up that sentiment. Real Clear Politics poll of polls now puts Clinton on 48.6 per cent compared to Trump’s 42.1 per cent. While in the key battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Nevada, Hillary is ahead (although Trump does still come out on top in Ohio and Georgia).

In terms of the debate, the poll numbers also pushed Hillary out in front. YouGov’s snap survey of American voters suggested 49 per cent of voters thought Hillary had triumphed compared to the 39 per cent who said Donald had won. But there was still a sizeable chunk of those watching - 12 per cent - who sat on the fence and suggested the third and final debate was a tie. There’s still a chance, it would seem, that undecided voters could determine the outcome of this election.

Yet CNN’s snap poll suggested Hillary’s win was more resounding: it gave the Democrat candidate 52 per cent of the vote, leaving Trump lagging by 13 points on 39 per cent. But interestingly, CNN pointed out that Trump had managed to reduce that margin considerably since the first debate, when he lost by 62 per cent to 27 per cent. This suggests the Donald has done well to make up lost ground. But is it enough at such a late stage of the Presidential race?

It certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom for Trump though. Michael Goodwin in the New York Post was (slightly) more optimistic. He said that Trump ‘had done well, delivering his best prepared and most substantive performance’. But he went on to say that it wasn’t sufficient - and suggested that the Republican candidate appeared to give that away at the end of the debate.

So while Trump’s questioning of the electoral system might have dominated the coverage, what else was discussed? Fox News’s analysis showed that immigration dominated the final debate, pointing out that around a quarter of the hour-long debate was spent answering questions on the subject. The candidates’ fitness to run for office was also an important feature of last night’s Vegas showdown, with Trump spending around eight minutes - and Hillary seven minutes - denouncing their rivals.

But what about those from both campaigns? Their verdicts are largely inevitable but still worth considering. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook had this to say:

‘I thought this was the best of the three debates for her. It was shocking to me that he said he may not accept the election results. I think its going to alienate him from large swatches of the electorate.’

While Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Katrina Pierson had this to say:

‘As a first time candidate and someone who has never done this before in his life, he did a very good job at defending himself. He hands down won this debate. We knew, when he ran for office, that there were going to be all kinds of horrible allegations thrown against him. This is what happens to anybody that runs for public office. We’ve got to get out there and take our country back and he’s the leader for that.’