7 Takes on the Final Debate

Trump may have landed a knockout punch on himself
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2016 11:19 PM CDT
Updated Oct 20, 2016 12:07 AM CDT
7 Takes on the Final Debate
No handshakes: Donald Trump waits behind his podium as Hillary Clinton makes her way off the stage.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Good news for Hillary Clinton: Many pundits say you won the final debate. Good news for Donald Trump: A lot of them say it was close. Good news for America: You'll never have to watch these two debate again. The showdown in Vegas turned out to be a more policy-focused affair than the first two debates, though there was no shortage of angry exchanges—and coverage is being dominated by Trump's refusal to commit to accepting the election results. A roundup of debate reactions:

  • Both candidates turned in their best performance of the three debates, according to Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post, who declares Clinton the winner. "She finally figured out the right calibration of ignoring and engaging Trump," he writes, while Trump's answer on accepting election results "was a total disaster and will be the only thing people are talking about coming out of the debate."
  • For a few minutes early on, "we had something like a normal debate," with candidates setting out familiar policy positions, writes Arthur C. Brooks at the New York Times. But as the evening went on, "concrete solutions mostly disappeared and the tone became far more biting and sarcastic. The candidates were openly contemptuous and disrespectful of each other," he writes, declaring the only winner to be the "grim status quo" of this election.

  • "This was no game changer, and no knockout punches," writes Jim Geraghty at the National Review—except for Trump's refusal to commit to accepting the election results, which could count as a "self-inflicted knockout punch."
  • Caleb Howe at RedState.com declares Clinton and Trump joint winners in their attempts to win over undecided voters: Both know that they are hated by many voters, he notes, and while Trump "appealed [to] the haters who lean right, she appealed to the haters who lean left."
  • Trump desperately needed a win, and for a while it looked like he would get one, writes David Gergen at CNN, where 52% of those polled called Clinton the winner, compared to 39% for Trump. After 40 minutes, Gergen writes, Trump "began to lose steam and, importantly, lose control of his ego. Wild charges, interruptions, defensiveness all resurfaced—some would say his persecution complex kicked in."
  • If it wasn't for refusing to commit to respecting the election results and his crack about Clinton being a "nasty woman," "maybe you could call it a draw," writes Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight. "The thing is, even a draw would be a bad outcome for Trump, who is 7 points behind Clinton and has few remaining opportunities to catch up." But Trump may not fall further in the polls, "because he's fallen pretty far already and he gave his 35% base some things to be energized about tonight."
  • Ric Anderson at the Las Vegas Sun thinks Clinton came out ahead: Trump was able to, "for the most part, focus on issues and keep his emotions in check," he writes, but his "gloom-and-doom assessment of the economy" will not resonate with voters in Nevada, where the economy has been doing very well for years, while Clinton "stayed the course with her message of creating jobs" in areas including infrastructure improvement.
(More presidential debate stories.)

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