Guns. Supreme Court. Abortion. Immigration. Those were the first four topics in the first three questions from Wednesday night’s debate (2nd Amendment and the Supreme Court were squeezed into the first question). On these issues, which are arguably the four most divisive between the two candidates, Donald Trump was composed, informed, and surprisingly eloquent. He was able to portray his thoughts intelligently without sounding too rehearsed. With Chris Wallace at the helm asking questions about issues, the first 30 minutes of this debate were the best 30 minutes Trump has had in any debate, including the primaries.
He exuded the presence of a President more than he’s ever done in his life.
It went downhill from there, though not as badly as it will be portrayed. Mainstream media will condemn him for declaring that he won’t necessarily accept the results of the election. I’ll cover that more shortly, but let’s look at his other mistakes:
- When she called him a puppet, his inner middle-schooler said, “No, you’re the puppet.” It’s already a viral Vine with hundreds of thousands of loops and rapidly rising.
- When asked about entitlements, he talked about improving the economy and jobs which absolutely won’t fix entitlements without a major overhaul.
- Lastly, he called her a nasty woman. She is, but that’s not going to help him score points with women, especially after drawing chuckles from the audience when he said nobody has more respect for women than he does.
There were other little mistakes, but all in all this was his best, most error-free debate. It also showed something to the conservatives in the #NeverTrump crowd: he might not be as far from their perspectives as they’ve been led to believe. His grasp of Heller far exceeded hers (no, Heller was not about toddlers, Hillary). His attack on partial birth abortion was spot-on and Hillary botched her response. Then, his vow and reiteration of appointing conservative pro-life Supreme Court justices was reassuring.
In those first 30 minutes, the all-important undecided Republicans and conservatives were given everything they would need to lean in his direction. Now, we’ll get to see the media playing up his unwillingness to definitively state that he’d accept the results of the election.
It will be an ineffective attack. To understand why, we have to look at the psychological effects that his stance will have on each type of voter.
Those firmly in the Clinton camp will take those words and move their chances of voting for him from 0% to -1%. Nothing lost there.
For those firmly in Trump’s camp, they’ll be cheering him on. Darn tootin’ they won’t accept the results if Trump doesn’t. It’s war!
Undecided Republicans will be a little affected by the notion, but the reiteration that election fraud is real combined with not accepting the results will push more towards him than away.
Undecided Democrats and Independents – here’s where it gets a little weird. Most of them won’t care enough to be swayed by the notion, but some will unconsciously lean towards him as a result. Why? Because it reinforces their feelings that the system is broken, that he’ll fight the system, and that they don’t want added chaos. Whether they realize it or not, the more that the media covers it, the more the undecided Democrats and Independents will consider Trump. Those who are undecided on the left are undecided because they really don’t like Hillary. If they liked her, they’d already be supporting her. The fact that they’re considering Trump means that his defiance to the system and antagonism of Clinton will be a plus.
Does this mean Trump will win? Unlike many self-proclaimed pundits, I don’t see this election as one that can be determined until election day. Nate Silver puts Trump’s chances below 20%. I tend to see it as still a tossup because 2016 is insane but more importantly because Trump is outperforming her on the issues. Tonight, it wasn’t even close. The only times Clinton sounded half-decent at all was when she was attacking Trump and/or pandering to women and minorities. On the actual issues, she sounded like a 3rd semester political science major with average grades and a crush on her professor. Trump sounded like he knew the issues.