Hillary Clinton, by a dominating margin. I’m speaking of last Monday’s debate, which she won roughly two-to-one over a collapsing Trump. His abysmal performance was the worst by any candidate in living memory.
As usually happens, the debate winner picks up momentum in the polls, and we see that happening now in both the national and key battleground state numbers. Huffington Post’s Pollster, the best of the poll averaging sites, shows she’s
back up to 4.5 points over Trump nationally. But readers know that the race will be decided in a few Battleground states, not the nation as a whole. Late yesterday we got our first look at Clinton’s post-debate position in five key swing states from Public Policy Polling. She’s moved back into the leads in all of them, most notably Florida and North Carolina, two Trump must-win states.
Many of us were confident Trump would not be an effective debater, but none could have foreseen his reversion to utter boorishness and confusion as his facade gradually slipped from the opening stages, began to crumble by the midway point, and totally disappeared by the final moments. He was at that point a quivering Orange mess, seething with barely-controlled rage.
It began with his dodging of questions on job creation. Then came his tax returns, and Clinton’s deft skill at making these into the issue they deserve to be. It went downhill from there. He was called out on his phony concession that President Obama was born in the U.S., and his refusal to answer the question why he pursued the Birther claims for five long years, when he was aware they were completely unfounded. When asked if he had anything to say to African-Americans, he firmly said “No”, and repeated it. Even a pro-Trump supporter heard the angry cry in a hundred ghettos across the land, and in some twenty million suburban households as well, very likely.
Already on the run, he reverted to his charge that Hillary doesn’t have the stamina to be President, doesn’t have a “Presidential look”, and doesn’t have the necessary (in his alternate-reality) “winning temperament”. He and his ratpack should count themselves lucky that she or the moderator did not at that point correct his poor understanding of English, and remind him that while there is no such thing as a “winning temperament”, there most definitely is a losing temperament.
Nearing the end, he had lost badly. But none of us could have imagined how he was about to self-destruct in the final minutes. Slapped in his puffy cheek with Clinton’s reminder of his misogyny, and her example of it, his public humiliation of Alicia Machado, his own Miss Universe pageant winner, Trump first tried to bully his way out of documented history, and, when Clinton was not intimidated, backed into his regular posture of petulant denial. Learning that the young woman, a struggling immigrant, had become a U.S. citizen, he gave up, crushed by not one woman, but two. Public humiliation in the eyes of 84 million-plus viewers. No Trump building was tall enough to escape his shame, no wall high enough to hide his weakness.
The Clinton team was understandably proud of her massive win, and the total success of the carefully laid Machado trap. They were even ready with a TV attack ad featuring Ms. Machado. It was at that moment simply a matter of waiting for the Friday and weekend polls to come in and see how well she had done.
There was absolutely no way they could have been prepared for what was to come.
The following morning, desperate to prove that his mega-fail the night before was simply a big lie put forth by the media under Clinton’s masterful direction, Trump attacked Ms. Machado on Fox News. Even his own supporters were caught flat-footed. How could he bring that terrible scene up, when he needed to get his message of tax-cuts for the rich and the horrors of inner-city neighborhoods back on track?
That was only the beginning of his descent into mindless rage this week. He simply would not, because, adolescent bully that he is, he could not let go. Clinton supporters and an estimated fifteen million undecided voters have now been treated to three full days of Trump’s winning temperament on full, shouted, incoherent display. Unlike the real and tragic one in Hoboken, his train wreck still dominates the news today.
Worse yet for the Trump cause, we’ve seen a massive surge in Latino interest in registering to vote after last Monday, in the key states of Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. Little did the self-centered Trump realize the nineteen year-old girl he’d publicly berated in 1996 had become a highly popular figure in the American Latino community.
And let’s be clear: the surge in Clinton’s numbers as of this morning do not reflect the additional voters who turn to her as a result of this latest round in the long-running Republican War on Women. By next Monday we’ll know better the damage he’s inflicted upon himself.
My guess is we’ll see Clinton’s well-organized advocates pushing hard on Machado and misogyny for at least another week, further disrupting Trump’s extremely shallow concentration as he vainly attempts to prep for the second Presidential debate a week from Sunday.
Would Clinton and her mighty surrogate team rather be talking about the goals she has for the country, and her well-considered plans to achieve them? Of course, especially since Trump has no plans except an economic plan that would bring about a recession while handing the richest 1% massive tax breaks. Trade? Trump’s “plan” is to try and get our trading partners to agree to new “deals” or risk the Donald bombing the s**t out of them.
Be sure that the Clinton team will continue to do their best to inform the voters on the pressing concerns and issues that confront the country. But the other side knows they dare not get into serious and complex issues when they must rely on a TV buffoon with the mind and emotional maturity of a fifth grader to explain the Republican position.
This is a sad state for our nation.
But sad or not, professionals and thoughtful citizens concerned with governing, economics, history, science, income distribution, education, public service, defense, foreign affairs, health care, climate change, civil rights, criminal justice, and women’s rights need to face the reality that Trump has created: this election will not be about issues, since only one side is prepared or willing to debate them.