So last night was the debate. I was planning on going to a watch party but I came down with the sore throat bug (tis the season) and forced myself to stay home and livetweet #Gotham before livetweeting #debatenight
Gonna see if I can share some of my tweets:
|well you can see who liked THIS one.|
It's enough to make a man sick. Twice.
Lemme just share from Balloon Juice about last night:
If you didn’t watch last night, rest assured: Hillary did a fine job, and Donald Trump… repeated all his Greatest Hits from the Rallies bits. He didn’t lose a single member of his devoted “base”, but he sniffled, lied, talked over the woman on the stage, claimed that America is a job-leaking hellhole which every filthy brown terrorist can’t wait to invade, lied some more, contradicted the African-American moderator (while lying), sniffled, called President Obama “your president”, took credit for “settling” the birtherism issue, and by every metric and “optic” looked like a coked-up, aging con artist in a bad suit rambling about “the nuclear” and “the cyber”...
Trump's own physical appearance became a liability. The tweets about his constant sniffling - which brought up jokes about his being sick, or else jokes about cocaine being a hell of a drug, and both - and his wilting on-stage became brutal and unavoidable. Per Drezner at the Washington Post:
The most interesting thing, however, was that as the debate went along, Clinton got stronger and Trump got weaker. A look at the debate transcript suggests that Trump’s answers got more rambling and more incoherent toward the end of the debate. Clinton remained her steady self...
...By the end of the debate, after 95 minutes of petulance, Trump claimed that he had a great temperament. The audience spontaneously laughed in response.
Presidential debates are tough, but being the president is tougher. And my main takeaway from tonight’s debate is that Donald Trump doesn’t have the stamina to last four years as America’s commander in chief. Or, as Clinton put it: “I think — I think — I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be President. And I think that’s a good thing.”
As Drezner notes: Can you picture Trump lasting four years in the White House? Not just in terms of stamina but in terms of focus and dedication to the job. He's all over the place, uncontrollable and undisciplined. Bush "Strategery" the Lesser handled himself better at these final-round debates, and that's saying something.
There was the expectation that because of the weak Republican primaries - where Trump's opponents were terrified to whack at him, leaving him unbruised - he'd flail and fail at a debate where his opponent - Hi, Madam President! - would actually punch back. And while Hillary did land a few blows, the real shocking thing is that a lot of Trump's wounds were self-inflicted. His own appearance defeated him (which begs the possibility he's going to refuse to show up to the next two he's supposed to do).
Of course, the big takeaway from last night is... that this will not greatly affect the polling or the amount of support Trump is getting from his GOP base. The horror that at the very least Trump is getting 40 percent of the vote will not go away (not unless he eats a live baby on-stage or something). The best to hope for is that the remnants of the Undecideds or the moderate Indy voters are now - hopefully and finally - terrified of Trump and will boost Hillary over 45-50 percent and in enough swing states to ensure an Electoral College stomping.
Hope hope hope.
What should happen here is a switch in the Narrative that the Beltway prides itself on: That is, that the Beltway insiders are "always right" and plugged-in to the "real power-brokers" with real news. There may still be a push for "both sides!" false equivalence to force their ongoing lust for a horse race, but we should see a major shift in the tone among the media elites towards highlighting the sins, flaws, and outright lies of Trump and his handlers.
But will that all happen?
Here's where my hope turns to despair. For more than a year we've seen Trump campaign exactly in this manner: Shameless, reckless, lying, self-serving, arrogant, noisy, inhuman, insane. Everything he did last night was a greatest hits version of every horror Trump displayed on the campaign trail... and in all those previous disasters, Trump's numbers went up. He kept moving, he kept lying, he kept winning in the worst ways. That shamelessness is key: Most other politicians would never sink to the levels Trump does, because they are actually concerned about their reputation and their futures. Trump doesn't care: He believes his reputation is flawless - hint: it's not - and his soul unblemished, so he continues to behave this way because nobody stops him and because too many people buy into his con game.
The normal dynamics of an election cycle tells us that what happened to Trump tonight would sink any campaign. The law of gravity regarding any single gaffe requires that Trump sinks below his support and fades into zero. But that has not happened to him yet: And after all of the failures and insults and chaos, Trump keeps gaining ground he should not gain. I've seriously begun worrying that either the polls are rigged or that there really are that many clueless voters buying into Trump's scam.
It would be pretty to think that Trump sinks to 33 percent support by the end of the week, and that Hillary regains solid leads in swing states like Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, and that even Georgia and Missouri and Arizona become Leans Blue with some happy relief on my part.
But does political gravity work the way it used to?