If anyone expected a different Donald Trump to show up at Monday night’s debate, they would have been disappointed. Trump was like an excitable dog running around the house, jumping on people and sending grandma’s heirloom vase crashing to the floor.
Still, it was good enough to fight Hillary Clinton to a draw. Here's why:
Clinton was calm, cool, and at times a little too smug for her own good. She went on the attack from the start, a recognition that her campaign has lost its footing and is in need of a jolt. But there is nothing you can tell the American people about Trump that they don't already know. Clinton's strategy of demonizing Trump isn't working. She now trails Trump in key battleground states won by President Obama in 2012, and the national polling is tied.
Clinton needed a big, defining moment and didn't get it. The best she could do was point people to her website for fact-checking .
The press and pundits will try to score the debate for Clinton, but they miss the big picture. Trump is the outsider in a year when two-thirds of the American people think the nation is on the wrong track. When Trump said of Clinton, "Typical politician: all talk, no action," he delivered the most devastating line of the night. Clinton is the consummate insider. Yes, she has experience, but as Trump said, "It's the wrong kind of experience."
So, what now? Clinton's campaign is rapidly losing altitude, a fact that her supporters and the press can no longer deny. The trend lines are not in her favor. If Clinton's performance is not good enough to stop Trump's momentum, something needs to change, and fast.
When Trump went through a revolving-door series of staff changes at a low point in his campaign, Democrats mocked him. But it worked, and Trump is stronger for it. If Clinton's slide continues, she may need to make some changes of her own.
Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.