Election Debates’ judging panel has unanimously awarded the First US Presidential Debate of the 2016 election to the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Mrs Clinton won on substance, tactics and delivery. It was a clear win.
Substantively, Mrs Clinton simply offered more in this debate. He understanding of the issues and her command of detail allowed her to respond to the question with relevance while sticking to her key arguments. In contrast, her Republican opponent, Mr Trump struggled to move beyond assertions.
“As each argument got more detailed and nuanced he struggled. He did not attack many of Mrs Clinton’s arguments and did not properly defend himself,” explained Election Debates’ Ray D’Cruz.
While Mr Trump’s starting position on given issues were clear enough, he struggled to explain and expand his arguments. He could not defend Mrs Clinton’s “Trumped up, trickle down” line of attack that lumped him with policies of President George W. Bush. On trade, he convincingly attacked, but lacked a clear plan. He was critical of the Iran deal, but offered no explanation on how he’d deal with that state. He advocated law and order, but seemed confused about the legality and effects of “stop and frisk”.
Mrs Clinton, in contrast, was able to present and defend her position consistently. While she may not have been pushed hard on her arguments or policy positions, she offered enough detail to draw out her experience and infer credibility.
Election Debates’ Steve Llano highlighted her tactical advantage with reference to the argument about security and nuclear weapons.
“Clinton did a much better job of establishing the principles of how she thinks about bilateral defense treaties, NATO, and nuclear weapons. Trump attacked the Iran treaty, but did not establish his own framework.”
“Her fastidious preparation was vital to this. She had mastered the issues and had helpful statistics and examples at the ready,” concluded panel member Wayne Jocic.
In contrast, Nick Bibby observed that Mr Trump looked unprepared, like he’d “clearly not bothered to prepare for a job interview”. He got bogged down on his bizarre Birther claims (who wouldn’t, in fairness?) and his support for the Iraq War.
The panel also agreed that Mrs Clinton had an advantage in her manner.
“Clinton’s delivery was good, but hardly charismatic. Yet it was enough to better Trump, whose manner regressed from enthusiasm to aggression to bullying as he spoke over both Clinton and the moderator.” according to Wayne Jocic.
While his discipline was good overall, relative to his previous outings, the intensity and relentlessness of the 90-minute format troubled him. The Republican candidate’s off-guard comment about not paying taxes was a moment that would have sunk any other candidate.
Jason Jarvis recognised the connection between Mr Trump’s faltering manner, and the substantive problems he faced during the debate.
“Hillary outlasted Donald. Despite the sexist attack on Hillary that she had no “stamina,” Trump was the horse that faltered by the end of the race. Questions about his tax returns, birtherism, Islamophobia and general failure to grasp foreign policy took their toll. Secretary Clinton was able to pound Mr. Trump on details, and without a loud audience cheering him own, Trump appeared to wilt as the debate went on.”
As Nick Bibby neatly summarised: “By all sorts of standards, Hilary Clinton won this debate and won it easily. She was stronger on content and more polished in demeanour – matter and manner, an easy win.”
Read the judges’ comments in full:
Election Debates will be covering the US Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates in the lead up to the November 2016 election.
As always, our analysis of the debate will apply the rules of competitive debate. We focus on the issues of the debate and the persuasiveness of the speakers.
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Following the debate: our adjudication panel will publish its results. We’ll post individual analysis as well as our panel verdict explaining who won and why.