It was the most anticipated debate in the history of U.S. presidential elections, but it left almost nothing to posterity. It was not comparable at all to the Kennedy-Nixon or Reagan-Carter duels. No memorable phrases were said. At most, it will be remembered because a new audience record was set. However, the old Donald will be unforgettable: He sniffles, he has a bad complexion, he is sweating, he cannot stop drinking water and he behaves more incongruously than he normally does. Did he snort cocaine? Of course, right now, it is clear that the event will have some kind of impact and who knows what consequences.
So, it must observed, analyzed and weighed down to the smallest details. Yet it can hardly be considered a decisive turning point in the race to the White House. If we simplify it to pure sporting terms, you may agree with the prevailing opinion that the outcome is to be considered a success for Hillary. That does not necessarily mean a defeat for Trump, let alone a defeat critical enough to impact the November ballot.
Hillary won the first of three televised debates, almost everyone says so. And it was widely expected. But what does it mean? What consequences will this victory have on the remainder of the presidential race? Will it draw consensus among voters, especially that large group of still undecided ones? Will she convince the most reluctant Democratic voters? Soon, the polls will tell us something about it. But above all: Will the outcome of the duel affect the behaviors of the two candidates in the coming weeks, and in the next two debates? If yes, how? In particular, does Trump feel he was defeated? If yes, will he reshape his strategy? How?
Some people, including his current strategists and his relatives, would like him to behave more presidential: that is, less impulsive, less superficial and more prepared on the issues. While some people –– specially him, first and foremost; the best strategist Trump has is Trump –– will push him to showcase significantly his own style without inhibitions, histrionic, agitated, visceral. After all, his style allowed him to get where he is today.
During his performance, the Donald appeared on the fence between these two “masks”: the would-be-president one (or the I-would-like-to-be-president one) and his usual macho stance without brakes.
This oscillating harmed him, made him look uncertain and on the defensive. With this behavior, he failed to convince the audience, as well as those who might vote for him but deep down fear his impetuousness. And his aficionados who worship his verbosity, his obvious lies, and his misogyny as much as his opponents detest it and live it like a nightmare, afraid that someone like this could end up in the Oval Office.
It is easy to predict that from this moment on, the second mask will prevail. Because it suits him most. Because it works better. The other, the adult, serious and trustworthy mask, is too hard for him to wear. It weighs him down like a hindering armor. But staying on the fence between the two masks would be the worst choice for him. So, we can only expect a further worsening of the character.
“I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it.’ It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.” It was a clear allusion to the Lewinsky affair. After the debate, he also said that he had held back because Chelsea was in the audience, but next time, he will “hit harder.” Provided the next two planned debates will take place (plus the debate between the two vice president candidates).
Trump threatened not to participate in the next debates, if the format applied on Monday is repeated. As a matter of fact, the face to face debate, as we have seen, penalizes this histrionic person who is short on topics and allergic to reasoned arguments. Trump realized this and he blames CNN, but he understood that a couple more performances like the one at Hofstra University would be fatal to him.
The candidates met at the debate virtually tied up in the polls. The real race begins now. On the debate, the two contenders have defined their positions. Hillary consolidates the widely known and recognized reputation of an American aspirant to the highest office, prepared, tenacious and pugnacious; the Donald — swinging between the two masks — confirms the image of a strong candidate in the battlefield during an election campaign but disturbingly cryptic and unable to show his ability to exercise presidential powers, if elected. He could correct his profile, but even if he did, Monday night’s performance cannot be removed from the minds of viewers. His lack of preparation, to use a polite term, to hold the office of president has been evident and cannot be deleted, especially if he definitely chooses to wear the “macho mask” without reservation.
The choice for the voters is now clear.