The State asked three S.C. political scientists for their assessment of Sunday’s presidential debate, when Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump faced off for the second time.
Here’s what Winthrop University’s Karen Kedrowski, York Technical College’s Rick Whisonant and Clemson University’s Dave Woodard said:
Who won and why
Kedrowski: “This debate was Hillary Clinton’s to lose. She needed to keep her cool and simply state her case. Trump, by contrast, had to do better than the last debate while trying to diffuse the damage his campaign suffered as a result of his attacks on Ms. (Alicia) Machado, revelations about taxes and the damaging video. Trump did actually keep his cool and had some prepared responses to these questions. He also tried to pivot to new subjects (emails, Bill Clinton’s affairs, etc.). However, contradicting his own vice president was not a good idea.”
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Whisonant: “Clinton won by giving a detailed tax policy and being more versed on foreign policy,” he said. “(But) this was a tabloid version of a presidential debate ... unbelievable and unaccepted. This was a base kind (of) debate. Either side could declare victory.”
Woodard: “Hillary Clinton won the debate because, for days before this event, the 2005 radio interview comments by Trump validated crude language he used to brag about forcing himself sexually on women. All Clinton had to do was show up. She did, and she won in that moment. The storm over Trump allowed Hillary Clinton to win.”
Best line or moment
Kedrowski: Clinton: “ ‘Here we go again.’ This is a line made famous by Ronald Reagan and she used it beautifully.” Trump: “ ‘I’m a gentleman.’ It was an amusing and brilliant line shore up his claims about respecting women.”
Whisonant: Trump: “Now she is blaming her lies on Abraham Lincoln.”
Woodard: Clinton: “Donald Trump is different, he’s not fit to be commander-in-chief.” Trump: “There’s never been anyone in the history of this country who was more abusive to women than Bill Clinton.”
Worst line or moment
Kedrowski: Clinton: “Her response to the ‘public vs. private’ position was meandering and non-responsive ... and Trump called her on it by saying, ‘She blamed this on Abraham Lincoln.’ ” Trump: “ ‘Locker room banter.’ I haven’t spent a lot of time in locker rooms, but I really hope yucking it up about sexual assault is not a frequent occurrence.”
Whisonant: Trump: “ ‘No, I don’t think you understand. This is locker room talk.”
Woodard: Clinton: “I was a great U.S. Senator.” Trump: Referring to the 2005 recording of him talking about women as “locker room language.”
Did Clinton do what she needed to do?
Kedrowski: “In many respects, yes.” Clinton “managed to keep her cool and to be positive. She was warm and really tried to connect with the people asking question. In this respect, Secretary Clinton took a page from her husband’s performances in his town halls. She also acknowledged her errors with emails and the ‘deplorables’ comment, which helps to diffuse those issues.”
Whisonant: “Clinton tried to appear to be directing her message to future generations and painting Trump as a threat to the future.”
Woodard: “Clinton had to show up and be calm. She was able to do that. She had to look presidential, and she did. Trump can’t look presidential, and he didn’t look that tonight.”
Did Trump do what he needed to do?
Kedrowski: “In many respects, yes. He managed to move the debate off of taxes and the video. He did manage to answer some of the questions with specific policies and he managed to ‘pivot’ to his favorite subjects: immigration, trade, Clinton’s emails, among them.
“He also interrupted Clinton far less frequently than in the last debate. ... He also managed the split screen much better – less scowling, less exasperation. ...”
Whisonant: “Trump gave his base everything they wanted,” including pledging to have a special prosecutor investigate Clinton if he is elected. “His best moment was talking about Clinton’s emails, but he spent little time on them. Did nothing to gain the votes other than his base.”
Woodard: “Trump had to stop the bleeding from what happened this past weekend. He was able to do that by attacking the past record of Hillary Clinton. He got off the floor.”