The Rushmore Report: Who Won the Debate? Three Views


The first presidential debate is over. Who won? The polls are divided. While most pundits agree that Hillary came out on top, the following polls say Trump won: Breitbart (76-24%), Drudge (82-18%), Politico (77-23%), The Hill (61-39%), and even liberal-leaning CNBC (61-39%). CNN had it 62-38% for Clinton. But you will find these three views on who won the debate most interesting.

1. David Gergen – Clinton Won

The CNN senior political analyst and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School says Clinton won big. He said, “Coming out of the debate, it was clear that she won decisively, but I suggest that the campaign will remain ferociously close.”

Gergen continued, “By all traditional standards of debates, Mrs. Clinton crushed. She carefully marshaled her arguments and facts and then sent them into battle with a smile. She rolled out a long list of indictments against Trump, often damaging. By contrast, he came in unprepared, had nothing fresh to say, and increasingly gave way to rants.”

But Clinton had her own struggles. “Mrs. Clinton struggled in the debate to create closer emotional bonds with voters,” said Gergen. “She has been vexed with the issue of likeability throughout this campaign and in recent months her team has become concerned about her ability to mobilize millennials in the way Barack Obama did so successfully. Her arguments last night should have made voters think, but I’m not sure it was enough.”

2. Mel Robbins – Trump Won

Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author, and strong Clinton supporter. That makes his comments even more surprising.

“As a Clinton supporter, it pains me to say Trump won. Clinton was too restrained, too smart – and as much as I hate to say it – she was too presidential. And being presidential won’t help her win the election. She spoke to the intellectuals tuning in; she did not speak to the average American.”

Robbins continued, “Her advisers told her to restrain from attacking Trump. She got the wrong counsel and it could cost her the election.” Robbins went on to criticize the democratic candidate for a lack of sharpness and toughness.

3. Julian Zelizer: It Was a Tie

A history professor at Princeton University, the author of biographies on presidents Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson, Zelizer calls the debate a toss-up. “Overall, it is unclear that Monday night’s debate will have a huge impact on the direction of the polls. The best moments for Donald Trump came in the first half hour, where he baited her into defending unpopular free trade deals.”

Zelizer wrote, “There were many reasons that Hillary Clinton supporters could be pleased with her performance. At several points, Trump was irritated and angry. He delved into some of his more controversial claims. He referred to Sean Hannity as evidence to support his business record. Clinton’s best moments came when she attacked him on birtherism. In the final half hour, Trump was mired in his Trumpian statements about women’s looks and more.”

“Clinton’s greatest advantage remains the dynamics of the Electoral College and the continued doubts about Trump’s capacity to be president,” he continued. “But it is unclear that this debate had the kind of dramatic moment that will shift the momentum Trump has built in recent weeks. Nothing happened to undercut the Trump campaign in this debate.”


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