The first Presidential debate of 2016 was held Monday night and the winner of that debate was Hillary Clinton. It’s not quite panic time for the Donald Trump campaign, but last night showed some huge flaws in his campaign strategy.
Before the debate started, Clinton dropped off the campaign trail for a few days and let her surrogates campaign for her. She used that time to practice several mock debates with a Trump stand-in and run down policy positions; she seemed to have used her time wisely.
Contrast that with Trump’s debate prep, which according to an article in the Washington Post consisted of little more than sitting down over food with friends and testing out zingers. Take it from someone whose entire sense of humor is based around quick zingers: it’s fine in short doses, but for an event like this, you need something more.
And man, did that show. Granted, Clinton was grilled less frequently throughout the night by moderator Lester Holt. And I do think that she could’ve done more during the debate to lay out her policies instead of simply going after Trump for most of the evening. But when it came to preparedness, she was on the money and Trump wasn’t.
Trump’s main task in the debate was to appear presidential. Over the duration of his campaign, he has insulted women and minorities. He has also shown a willingness to beef with everyone who attempted to insult him. Monday night was a great time to show that he was turning a corner. And at the beginning, it seemed like he was about to do just that.
But after remaining presidential for the opening salvo and referring to Clinton by her former “Secretary” title, Trump got testy. Had he prepared properly, he might have known that Clinton was going to attack him on everything from his denial of climate change to his taxes. He quickly grew flustered, interrupting Clinton at one point in the debate to argue about how fit he was to be president based on his temperament.
She maintained a calm demeanor throughout the proceedings, and came off as the better of the two options on that stage. To use an example that was frequently cited, it was like Trump and Clinton were giving presentations in front of the class. Clinton was the one who came prepared, with slides, note cards and an annotated bibliography to boot. Trump, on the other hand, was the student who swore that the presentation was due next week and had no materials to back his case up.
Now the goose is by no means cooked for the Trump campaign. If they take time off before the second debate on Oct. 9 and prep so that he’s ready for Clinton at their next showdown, he may yet turn in a better performance than he had this week. But if Trump continues to play “fast and loose” with practice, the second debate will be just as ugly for him as the first.