- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

NEW YORK – To the probable consternation of his critics, Donald Trump came off as authentic and, compared to Hillary Clinton, the more likable of two much-disliked presidential wannabes in their first head-to-head presidential debate Monday night.

An often poised and mostly self-assured former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ate her political newbie opponent’s lunch when it came to citing facts on policy issues on Monday night.

He was more heart than facts; she was smilingly condescending. He won that one.

 “On issue after issue, Donald Trump spoke to the hearts and very real concerns of average Americans who want a better economy, lower debt and a safer country,” said attorney Mary Thomas, who lives in the Orlando area of Florida.

The biggest loser of the evening as NBC anchor and debate moderator Lester Holt. He never asked Mrs. Clinton about her health, her role in Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and barely anything about emails. But he hammered Mr. Trump on the birther issue, releasing his taxes, and bankruptcies. 

Oddly, Mr. Trump didn’t hit Mr. Holt for the one-sidedness.

“Both candidates made their arguments, neither stumbled, not many minds were changed and undecided voters may have heard persuasive points,” said Stephen A. Van Dyck, a former America’s Cup yacht designer and tactician, chairman of a petroleum shipping firm and former Philadelphia Financial Oversight Board chairman.

“But at least Trump used fact to press hard his advantage — Clinton’s being part of the hard-to-defend last eight years.

Chin up, smile on, he showed off that often-easy, sometime-biting humor along with a CEO’s certitude about who and what’s wrong and how to fix both.

Judging by what most voters actually take into account – the impression a candidate makes on them— the famous occupant of Trump Tower was the overall winner of the first of three scheduled presidential debates.

Whether he pushed enough of the masses of undecided voters in key swing states over to his side to give him a clear lead in the weirdest contest for the presidency in modern memory only the coming week of polls will tell — or appear to tell, or claim to tell.

“His knock-out punch tonight was when he said, ‘She’s got experience, but it’s bad experience,” said Terry Schilling, American Principles Project executive director.

“He managed to turn Clinton’s greatest asset into a weakness. Now voters will think of the bad results that she’s delivered over the past 30 years instead of what Hillary wants to talk about,” said Mr. Schilling, whose group he said “focus on religious freedom, sound money, education policy, and federalism.”

Being presidential may mean for some voters looking more in control of a debate than the opponent. Mr. Trump had the edge on that, too.

Trump controlled the tempo and there were clear points when he got under Hillary’s skin,” said Terry Schilling, American Principles Project executive director. “His strongest point was the fact that Hillary has been in politics for 30 years and hasn’t been able to get results on the problems that she’s been complaining about. He’s right in that she will tax and regulate our jobs out of existence.”

Mr. Schilling said Mr. Trump “had the courage to point out the 800-pound gorilla in the room by talking about the current stock market bubble that’s been created by artificially low interest rates from the Federal Reserve.” 

The undecided aren’t exactly massive in numbers in the crucial state of Pennsylvania, crucial Colorado, critical Ohio, breath-holding Florida, even-odds Nevada and North Carolina. So getting more of the base out on election day is a must for both candidates.

But Mrs. Clinton (and Mr. Holt) were the winders when it came to getting Mr. Trump to plunge into the weeds of obscure debates no one much cared that much about.

Hillary started throwing mud first and with her accusations about what Trump may be hiding in his tax returns,” said J. Scoot Moody, Family Prosperity Initiative director. “Despite predictions to the contrary, Trump took the high road and did nothing that would derail the momentum he has seen in recent weeks. That makes Trump the winner of the debate.”

There was a clear winner in at least one debate segment.

 “I feel like Trump handily won the cyber section of the debate because over the last eight years Clinton had had military and intelligence influence,” said Chris Abraham, an Arlington, Va., based internet technology entrepreneur.  “Points for Trump. Obama and Clinton suck on international. Trump wins points on the international segment for sure.”

Like so many undecided voters – or maybe voters —  in this election contest,  Mr. Abraham is torn between a lack of enthusiasm and more lack of enthusiasm, which the debate Monday night may  not have done much to clear up.

 “I want to vote against Hillary but I’m enough of a liberal to put Obamacare and choice ahead of my second-amendment support for now,” said Mr. Abraham. But I’m really and truly opposed to liberal interventionism.”

 

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