I cannot deny that I was disappointed at the end of the first presidential debate. Trump ought to have put her away with so many issues opened up for which there are answers aplenty. He went after her in the first half and drove her to the edge of the field but then let her back.
So let me think about this a bit more. First, the totally one-sided “moderating” really irritated. The issues that will matter, looking forward for the next four years, do not include where Obama was born or what Donald Trump shows on his tax form. These are not policy matters and do not much matter. What counts are the things that were not touched upon — Benghazi, her public email server which has allowed every foreign intelligence agency to read every email she sent, the open border that is not being sealed and would not be by Clinton, and her inveterate lying about everything large and small. These were not brought into the mix by the moderator.
Second, I think Trump is conscious of the Romney experience. Mitt Romney won the first debate, then didn’t win the election. If there is anything that Trump has shown, it is that he gets his timing right. I thought he let Clinton off the hook in a number of places which he ought to have driven an armoured column through, but didn’t. I don’t know if it was deliberate but, on purpose or not, he will be back for the second and third events. What did Hillary learn from this? Nothing that I think can help her, while Trump learned a lot.
Third, the Trump I saw was not the Trump I believe he can be. The Trump others saw for the first time was, however, someone who does not scare the horses and had as presidential a look about him as one could wish. That Trump has won every one of the online polls which asked who won the debate says something about the common expectation which he more than seems to have filled.
Fourth, Hillary’s desire to raise taxes on “the rich” and increase the minimum wage are massive disasters that would ruin the working lives of many, especially those at the bottom. Trump, on the other hand, wants to lower taxes and remove regulations on business. Hillary panders to the ignorant while Trump has a more sophisticated view of how a capitalist system works. It is not a zero-sum game in the way it is discussed by Clinton. Adding to that, his aim to re-negotiate the various trade deals, and have other nations contribute to the cost of their defence by the United States. These are the kinds of changes that really can make the American economy succeed. Nothing that Hillary says (or has ever done), makes you think she has much of an idea how things work, other than via various forms of patronage and corruption.
In all, I wish it had been more of a win for Trump. But on that very day the polls suggested the Electoral College for the first time rolled in his favour. He has until the start of November to build on what he has achieved, and there is no reason to think he cannot do what needs to be done. And there is always the possibility that the people who are voting understand that they are not selecting a debating team but the person who will lead their nation through one of the most perilous times in its history.