By Luke Wathen
The night of Sept. 26 hosted an event that Americans have been anticipating for over a year: the first presidential debate of the 2016 election. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took the stage in their solemn glory for what many hoped to be a verbal bloodbath.
And a bloodbath it was. While both candidates took the stage with heads held high and an air of confidence about them, only Clinton left with her pride intact.
To understand what caused Trump to do so poorly in his first one-on-one presidential debate, it is important to look at his past performances.
During the GOP primary season, Trump made a habit of hounding his various opponents about their alleged weaknesses and shortcomings. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were notable targets, and both suffered a drop in support after Trump’s mockery.
Yet, whenever it came time to discuss actual policy proposals, Trump all but disappeared. After being so eager to lambast his fellow candidates, he would slip into silence and let his adversaries duke it out.
This strategy of making short but memorable outbursts made Trump excellent fodder for the 24-hour news cycle and world of entertainment. As a result, the other candidates lost out on publicity and their campaigns faltered until Trump was able to clench the nomination.
The strategy of condensing his campaign to short quips may have let Trump seize the Republican nomination, but it may prove his undoing in a general election. While Clinton seemed much more poised and articulate during the debate, Trump appeared visibly shaken and desperately tried to compensate for his past statements on issues ranging from global warming to racial relations.
That is not to say Clinton has not had her fair sure of issues as a candidate. The ongoing investigation regarding her use of a private email server, her role in the Benghazi attacks of 2012 and the leaked Democratic National Convention emails that paint her as a corrupt figure have no doubt shaken the nation’s confidence in her.
Even with a laundry list of controversies tied to her name, Trump did little to bring attention to them. Besides a few passing mentions of her private email server and her controversial tenure of Secretary of State, Trump was so busy covering his own tracks and denying the unconstitutionality of “stop and frisk” procedures that he failed to even see Clinton’s history of hypocrisy and unethical practices.
The debate is still fresh in the minds of the American people and the coming days should tell how this will impact the overall election. But for now, it seems that the once mighty Donald Trump has fallen and the presidency is ripe for the taking for Hillary Clinton.