This will come as a shock to Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters, but their messiah lost the debate.
No, Hillary didn’t knock him out. But he lost nonetheless, on points.
But that’s not necessarily bad news for Trump – since the chattering class that is confidently declaring Hillary Clinton the winner has been wrong every step of the way starting with the confident declaration – yes, made by me and many, many others – that he wouldn’t run in the first place.
Trump started out strong at Hofstra, portraying Clinton as yesterday’s candidate in a nation that desperately wants change. And she sounded it too as she dredged up that tired liberal bromide about how the rich need to pay their “fair share.” Haven’t we heard that about a trillion times already?
He painted a picture of her as part of the old, stale political class that talks a good game but is short on action and accomplishment. He, on the other hand, was a businessman who knows how to make deals. America won’t be taken advantage of anymore, he said, if he’s elected president.
If you tuned out after that, Trump won the debate – and maybe the election.
But it went downhill from there, mainly because Donald Trump can run but he can’t hide from his past.
There were questions about his failure to release his tax returns. He’s hiding something, Mrs. Clinton said. Maybe he’s not as rich as he’s constantly telling us. Or maybe he doesn’t give very much, if anything, to charities, despite his claims.
And there were Donald’s description of some women as fat pigs – and his depiction of a Latin woman in one of his Miss Universe pageants as “Miss Housekeeping,” a charge he didn’t deny.
Worst of all, there was his role in keeping the Birther nonsense going – not just for a while, but for 5 years after Barack Obama released his long-form birth certificate, which, of course, more than a few of Trump’s supporters still think is a fake.
In a rational world, none of this would help Donald Trump. But in the world we find ourselves, we don’t know yet if it will hurt him.
As for moderator Lester Holt, while he asked Trump those uncomfortable but legitimate questions about taxes and his role in the Birther insanity, he didn’t ask as many uncomfortable questions of Clinton.
There was nothing on the Clinton Foundation or Benghazi — or her take on late term abortion, for that matter — and precious little on those pesky emails – though Trump could have made more of that last issue than he did.
When the subject turned to cyber-security, Trump rolled over and played dead. Why didn’t he say, “You’re talking about cyber-security when you used a private server – stored in your bathroom — for emails that contained secret information? A server that was less secure than a Gmail account and was probably hacked by our adversaries!”
I have read suggestions that Trump’s supporters should be furious with him because he let them down. Maybe they should, but of course they won’t be – such is their blind faith in their messiah.
I’ll save the last word for Jim Geraghty, who opened a morning after piece in National Review with a line that may be prescient: “This was a terrible night for Donald Trump, so he’ll probably surge in the polls.”