It was a town hall in name only — the second presidential debate was moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz’s show. Ms. Raddatz lost her composure, and openly started debating Donald Trump on his foreign policy chops. As Hillary Clinton sat back and missed opportunities to jab Mr. Trump, Mr. Cooper and Ms. Raddatz made sure they were there to help pick up the ball for her.
Both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton seemed agitated and irritated at times. They both — at length — seemed to get off on inexplicable and confusing tangents. Mrs. Clinton somehow blamed her leaked Wall Street transcripts on a movie about Abraham Lincoln and Mr. Trump contradicted his vice president’s position on Syria in bizarre fashion.
He sniffled and she laughed in a combination of contempt and defensiveness.
Here’s the night’s scorecard:
Mr. Trump did better than the first debate. He stayed true to the issues, positioning himself as a change agent and forcing Mrs. Clinton to defend her record. The last 10 days of his campaign have been rough, but Sunday night’s debate will help stop the bleeding. Mr. Trump landed many punches against Mrs. Clinton, helping to put his leaked audio-tape controversy in the rear-view mirror.
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He ended the debate on a high-note, being asked what he respects about Mrs. Clinton, and replying: “She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that … she’s a fighter.”
It was a good answer, one of humility and grace — something Mr. Trump doesn’t show much of — and one of the best of the night.
Mrs. Clinton came into the debate with the momentum and seemed to squander it. Asked if it was okay for politicians to be two-faced, Mrs. Clinton whiffed, and spoke about the movie Lincoln, lending one of the night’s most potent zingers to Mr. Trump.
“She lied. Now she is blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. That’s one,” said Mr. Trump. “Honest Abe never told a lie, that’s the big difference between Abraham Lincoln and you.”
Mrs. Clinton wasn’t as aggressive as she was in the first debate, and seemed to lean on the moderators to do her heavy lifting. She also once again didn’t present her vision for America. Her campaign is simply a referendum on Mr. Trump’s temperament, and it should be more.
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Shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday night, the Republican National Committee tallied the score: Mr. Trump had been interrupted by the moderators 14 times, compared to Mrs. Clinton being interrupted only three times.
Perhaps, if Mr. Cooper or Ms. Raddatz simmered their burn, some of the people who attended the town hall may have been able to ask some questions. The moderators’ job was to keep both candidates to their 2-minute time limit, but it did seem at times Mrs. Clinton was allowed to drag on, while Mr. Trump’s time limit was strictly enforced. The moderators also admonished audience members for clapping – but only when it was Mr. Trump’s applause.