There is no end to the views on who won the 2nd Presidential debate in the 2016 race. Already this debate has been called the most tweeted election on Twitter ever. But there are some things that can be definitively said.
The moderators were certainly more in charge of this debate than Lester Holt. That being said, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz failed in their responsibility to be impartial and informative. While recent scandals of the past 48 hours were addressed, how this was done was a clear display of bias in the debate. Almost immediately Trump was hit with a question on his comments about women. Which should be expected considering the media push on that issue. But it was quite some time into the debate, some 40 minutes, before a question on the transcripts of Hillary Clinton’s private paid speeches was addressed. The reasoning is pure television marketing.
The debate lead with controversy against Donald Trump. In part this draws eyeballs for the rest of the debate. In part, it’s to capitalize on the viewership that would drop off because of the football game playing at the same time. But there is also the fact that this took advantage of the fact that millions would exit the race to be able to get up in the morning. Splitting the current event with such a time delay was a purposive act mean to maximize embarrassment and damage the Trump campaign. By definition this is political bias.
Further the fact that several times each moderator abruptly interrupted Trump without warning. In addition each moderator, especially Martha Raddatz, challenged Donald Trump with questions and challenges in rapid fire without allowing for Trump to present his answer in full. It was blatantly obvious that Raddatz didn’t like where some questions were going and just cut off Trump and challenged him further, denying the public the opportunity to hear a clear answer.
Not surprisingly, Trump had more time to talk in the debate (40 minutes). But what is a surprise is that Clinton was so close in time (39 minutes). But this may be due to the fact Trump was cut off more and Hillary was allowed to run over time more often.
Finally, considering the fact the event was a Town Hall event, there were shockingly few questions from the audience. The questions were dominated by the moderators, making it a debate of an entirely different style than promoted.
The questions were also lacking. There was no question on the national debt – one of the most critical issues facing the nation’s future. Education was skimmed over, primarily by the candidates in their answers. But there was no mention of the highly controversial Common Core. Equally international policy was mostly just an add-on in the answers of the candidates.
Refugees were a focal question, but not the amazingly unasked question of why Syrian refugees are so much more important than all other refugees in the world at this time. Nor was Clinton asked to follow up if she advocates the reduced timeframe of the Obama Administration and how that relates to national security. Neither candidate was asked about the PKK, or the Phillipines, and other hotbeds beyond Syria.
While Donald Trump was grilled all night long, with no less than 5 questions on his comments about women in 2011, Clinton was never asked about any question in the same manner. The email scandal was addressed in 1 question with no challenge to the deletion. In fact Martha Raddatz attempted to move on until Trump responded to the answer of Clinton. The critical speech detailing that Clinton has a private and public position on policy earned just 1 question. There was no followup to clarify how exactly Clinton could justify a movie being the cause of that statement.
Overall the tenor of the debate was far better than the first. The difference was akin to a chasm. Both candidates were far more focused. The few issues that were brought up were far better covered. But both candidates failed as well. Both dodged questions they were not comfortable with.
But the real difference was the demeanor. This debate presented a far more subdued and restrained Donald Trump. That may well be due to the recent scandal, but still came off far more Presidential and composed than in the first debate.
Hillary Clinton remained the poised politician of the past 25 years. She did not take any of the baiting offered by Trump. Her discipline was far more on display – her facial features no longer revealing when Trump had hit on an issue of significance as in the first debate.
But perhaps the most critical answer of the entire debate was that of Hillary Clinton. In defending her political record as Senator of New York, Clinton highlighted her 417 Bills proposed. The key is that she did not address the number of Bills passed, which was a total of 3 – naming a Post Office, part of a highway, and a historic site. It was a glaring act of subterfuge and political smoke and mirrors.
Thus, the winner of the debate seems clear. Hillary Clinton lost the debate again. Expectations remain higher for Clinton to outperform Trump. Given the extreme pressure on Trump based on the tape released Friday, many expected Trump to implode or be shredded in the debate.
But Clinton was matched almost point for point. Trump was not goaded into a rant. Trump was obviously under attack by moderators who had no fear of acting with bias during the debate, and still came off as competent. The scandal failed to cripple Trump as Hillary supporters had hoped. The attempt to connect Russia to Trump failed, as did the continued demand for Trump’s tax returns.
While this was a better debate, 2016 remains the least impressive presidential season in several decades at least. That said, there should be no surprise if Trump recovers some of the ground lost this weekend.