Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off in the first of three debates on Monday night with a record viewing audience of an estimated 100-million tuning in to see if the billionaire businessman could look “presidential” and if the long-time politician could become “likeable.”

Anyone expecting a traditional debate along the lines of the Obama-Romney match-up in 2012 or the first televised debate between then-Sen. John Kennedy and Vice-President Richard Nixon in 1960 were in for a surprise as the two candidates sparred, interrupted and traded none-too-veiled barbs.

Here are five fast takeaways from the first debate of the 2016 election.

  1. Neither candidate is a Ronald Reagan in terms of quickness of wit – or sheer likability. Clinton remains stiff and joyless, and while Trump supporters appreciate his feisty straight-talk, he isn’t known as a charmer. For anyone who doesn’t remember the moment Reagan dismantled his opponents with a smile and a quip –  take a moment to Google: “Reagan Mondale” and “Reagan Carter.” It’s worth it. There are two more debates to go, but it’s doubtful either Trump or Clinton will capture a moment like the master communicator did back in the day.
  2. Clinton did a full 90-minute mock debate over the weekend – and it showed. True to form, the famously “wonky” policy maven had a script and she stuck to it. In fact, she didn’t stray off-message even when she had the opportunity to score extra points against the political newcomer. It works for her, it doesn’t matter to her diehard supporters and there’s no reason to think she’ll deviate from the same formula in the next two debates. It’s boring, but then again, so is Hillary.
  1. Trump approached his first-ever one-on-one debate as he had the Republican primary events where the stage was packed with a dozen rivals – he did a 10-minute walk-through and declared himself ready. As a result, he missed more than a few “check-mate” moments when he could have left Clinton without a response – on her email scandal, on her own finances and the family Foundation, on high crime statistics in Chicago – and on the irony of her being in charge of national cybersecurity. Trump is smart, though, with smart and fiercely devoted advisors in daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who may have him locked in a room in Trump Tower at this very moment watching tape. He won’t miss those opportunities again.
  1. Clinton is not as frail as she seemed two weeks ago when she collapsed at the 9/11 memorial in New York City, later revealing that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia. She didn’t cough, she wasn’t wearing special glasses for double-vision and she didn’t fall over. For his own part, Trump didn’t turn red, froth at the mouth or call the former First Lady ‘Crooked Hillary’ to her face. A victory for civilized politics.

And lastly...


5. Nobody won.
While Clinton had professional answers to Holt’s oddly off-target questions – nothing on immigration, nothing on emails, nothing on the Clinton Foundation, nothing on the Clinton’s meteoric rise to millionaire status after leaving the White House “dead broke,” nothing on Putin – she failed on the one crucial mission she had for the night: showing herself as a likeable person. Trump remained true to form, but didn’t go for the jugular when she handed him the chance.

In 2012, Mitt Romney did so well against the heavily favored Obama in the first debate that it was reported Michelle Obama told her husband flatly, “You stunk.” Romney soared in the polls and was floored by moderator Candy Crowley at the next debate.

Clinton and Trump will meet again on October 9 and 19, with the vice-presidential candidates Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia debating on October 4.

 

 

 

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