The State asked four S.C. political scientists for their assessment of Monday’s presidential debate.
Here’s what The Citadel’s Scott Buchanan, Winthrop University’s Scott Huffmon, the College of Charleston’s Gibbs Knotts and Francis Marion University’s Alissa Warters said:
Who won and why
Buchanan: “I don't think either one really won. The bottom line is that neither candidate did anything to alienate their bases. They needed to reach out to about one-third of voters who polls indicate are up for grabs. I'm not sure that either did much to reach that group.”
Huffmon: “Economic section: a draw. Clinton had policy and Trump mostly didn't, but Hillary seemed practiced and awkward. Trump got a lot of zingers. Racial portion: Trump floundered. Showed a total tin ear and doesn't seem to realize why. Foreign policy: If you're a Trump supporter you cheered his jeers, but Hillary had several moments where her expertise shone through.”
Knotts: Clinton. “Both had their moments,” but Clinton ... “showed more policy depth and maintained her composure more often.”
Best line or moment
Buchanan: “Nothing particularly stood out as ‘the moment.’ For Trump supporters, they undoubtedly liked his comment about her as being ‘Holier than thou.’ Clinton supporters were sure to like Clinton's rebuttal about having the stamina to be president.”
Huffmon: “Trump's quips ranged from biting to clumsy. Clinton had several that died on delivery.”
Knotts: “Clinton’s reasons for why Trump has not released his taxes were very effective. Her answer to whether she has stamina was also very good.”
Warters: Trump’s best moment was “his challenge to Clinton about why she hasn't helped the economy during the 30 years she has been in public life. He was able to hit on that theme several times during the debate. This, of course, was part of his plan to paint her a a failed lifetime politician. Clinton's best moment was calling attention to Trump's temperament and his penchant for responding to tweets like a petulant child. She pointed out that someone with that temperament should not have access to the nuclear codes.”
Worst line or moment
Buchanan: “Trump's weakest moment was explaining the Obama birther comments. Clinton's weakest moments were her attempt to paint a positive vision but then inevitably attacking Trump.”
Huffmon: “Trump yelling, ‘NOT!’ at Clinton. The presidency isn't Wayne's World.”
Knotts: “Trump ended up defending his business record too much. Trump did not benefit from the split screen. He looked frustrated at times.”
Warters: “Clinton's worst moment was hiding behind her husband's policies and not being able to fully respond to the ‘30 years’ challenge from Trump. I also thought her ‘Trumped Up, Trickle Down’ fell flat.”
Did Trump do what he needed to do?
Buchanan: “Trump focused constantly on painting Clinton as a career politician and playing up to his populist base. In that regard, he gave the performance he needed.”
Huffmon: “Shore up his base? Yes. Win over undecideds, no. There was nothing in this debate from Trump that anyone watching the news over the past months wouldn't have seen.”
Knotts: “He was aggressive and showed a lot of toughness. But, he ended up defending his business record too much.”
Did Clinton do what she needed to do?
Buchanan: “Clinton tried to eat into Trump's momentum. She highlighted the high points of her career.”
Huffmon: “Mostly. She needed to seem measured. She was stumbling at first, seeming over measured. But she needed to get the millennials: she did nothing on that front. She needed to shore up her base. She did that. She needed to reach undecideds. Mixed bag there.”