It was the Full Donald. As usual, the Republican presidential nominee was angry, rambling, bullying, condescending, uninformed, and undisciplined.
Donald Trump repeatedly interrupted Hillary Clinton and moderator Lester Holt, who never really tried to rein him in. And yet he still bragged, “I have a much better temperament.”
If voters could look at Trump and conclude that he should be their next president, they’re living in an alternative universe. The scary part is that millions of voters have already taken up residence in Trump World. Predicting that this debate performance will change their minds, or turn off the undecided voters, is risky business in this unusual election year.
But it should provoke some second thoughts.
By any conventional standards, Clinton won.
She was cool, unruffled, and knowledgeable. Her biggest challenge was trying not to look smug as Trump offered his usual free-range performance.
Clinton handled the inevitable question about her e-mail server with a simple apology and acceptance of responsibility. In doing so, she showed some grace, a quality completely lacking in Trump. When he was pressed on his refusal to produce his tax returns, he doubled down, saying that not paying federal taxes “makes me smart.” He bragged about his “unbelievable company,” as well as his willingness to take “advantage of the laws of the nation” to keep from paying people who worked for him.
The one new element to Trump’s debate persona was a curious sniffling. Perhaps he was not feeling well? Of course, it didn’t stop him from questioning Clinton’s “stamina.” But she looked fit enough and may even have been likeable enough.
This debate really came down to whether voters could look at Trump and see a president. His base will stick with him. But growing it will be difficult after Monday night’s performance.
Or, it should be, if any conventional standards of measurement still apply in this unconventional race for the White House.