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Presidential Horse Race 2016: First presidential debate – Hillary gets the spin, Trump ends up with the win

It was said in the lead-up to Monday night’s first presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump that the program would draw an audience comparable in size to the Super Bowl. Only the overnight ratings will prove whether that prediction ultimately came true, but if the hype was to be believed, people cared an awful lot about this event.

This year, fortunately or unfortunately, there will be three Super Bowls and one “playoff” game, that being the vice presidential debate one week from tonight.

Trump Clinton debatePerhaps it was because of that “big game” atmosphere that the tension was palpable as the candidates took the stage at a few minutes after 9 p.m. EDT and were introduced. Monday night’s debate took place at Hofstra University in New York and was moderated by NBC’s Lester Holt.

Despite the attempts of the debate organizers to make the stage setting “equal,” Hillary looked kind of silly behind an oversized lectern that was designed to help minimize the physical differences between the two candidates. Since Trump stands a couple inches over six feet tall and is built to match, he’s a physically imposing figure. He looks huge standing next to the five-foot-four Clinton, whose hairdo didn’t help make up the height difference.

Physical appearances aside, literally from the beginning the sparks flew. Those who were expecting a kinder, gentler Donald Trump must have been sorely disappointed. The first question was about achieving prosperity and creating jobs.

Hillary reeled off her standard boilerplate answer on “investing” in the economy (the “investment” word is big with Democrats, but they’re talking about your money, folks), “clean” energy and raising the minimum wage. Then Hillary said she would demand “Equal pay for women’s work.”

Talk about a gaffe. Oddly enough, I didn’t hear anyone talk about it after the debate concluded. Strange.

I think Trump “won” the first thirty minutes when talking about his business, creating jobs and the problems associated with trade deals. As a career politician or wife of one, Hillary doesn’t know anything about businesses (she cited her father's small business as authority for understanding how they work) and her tax policy is completely wrong.

The voters will have to decide on that one since moderator Holt mostly let them bicker among themselves without too many interruptions. At times it almost seemed like a debate without a moderator, which was nice. But the back-and-forth wasn’t productive for either candidate I felt.

Later on, when asked about race and the police, Clinton answered, “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone.” Yeah, sure, Hillary, we’re ALL biased racists. In her description of race relations in this country, how can she think anyone can work together or live in the same communities?

I live on a street that has been racially and religiously diverse since we moved here. If we’re all “implicitly biased,” how can all the neighbors get along?

Meanwhile, Trump missed the chance to bring up Hillary’s “deplorables” comment where she insulted tens of millions of Americans by calling them “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, you name it.”

I think Clinton also got the better of the race relations question by spouting a bunch of nonsense about prison reform and how the police can improve with more “training.” Astonishingly but not surprisingly, Hillary hinted that the federal government should get involved in “training” local police forces.

I can only imagine what such training sessions would involve if they’re overseen by Hillary’s Justice Department. It would be political correctness on a massive scale and would probably result in police without guns.

Predictably, Trump talked about the need for law and order but didn’t give many specifics on how his presidency would help foster renewed peace in the country’s inner cities.

There were a couple other occasions where I think Trump missed opportunities to hit Crooked Hillary where it hurts the most and where she’s weakest on the all-important subject of national security. First was a question from Holt on dealing with cyber security, which was a golden chance for Trump to bring up Clinton’s fast and loose handling of her emails (which she again admitted was a “mistake”). The second was when Holt asked how the candidates would prevent domestic terrorism.

Here, the answer is clear: don’t allow it to come to our shores in the first place. Coming off a mini wave of Muslim terror attacks – in Minnesota, New York, New Jersey and Washington State within the past couple weeks, the subject is at the forefront of peoples’ minds.

Instead of addressing the Muslim refugee immigration situation where the Democrats want to dramatically increase virtually un-vet-able newcomers into the U.S., Trump instead talked about how he’s been endorsed by admirals and generals and he’ll take their support, etc… and how Hillary created the ISIS situation by pulling out of Iraq prematurely.

When briefly queried about her emails, Clinton once again repeated her stock phrase, “I made a mistake and I wouldn’t do it again and I make no excuses.”

Listening to her rationale for callously and knowingly breaking vital security laws Hillary almost sounds like she’s a kid in the junior high principal’s office offering assurances that she knows what she did was wrong, won’t do it again -- and please don’t tell my parents.

On most questions Trump wasn’t long on policy specifics, but instead provided the outlines of what he intended to do if elected.

Oddly enough, Trump’s lack of specifics probably hurts him less in the general election than it should have in the primaries where as a candidate you’re supposedly comparing policies that are reasonably similar.

For example, pretty much every Republican candidate offered some sort of tax cut proposal. The distinctions between them could make a big difference to a primary voter who favors cuts for the middle class versus cuts intended to spur economic growth (no judgment here on what’s preferable).

But in the general election – especially this one – the normal gap in policy between the parties has turned into a gaping chasm. It’s not going to do Trump a whole lot of good to talk about marginal tax rates when the average viewer is probably a lot more interested in hearing about how his policies are going to help the overall economy versus Hillary’s plans that would continue to hurt it.

The modern American president is supposed to lay out a broad agenda to serve as the starting point for budget negotiations and other legislation to be considered by Congress. Every presidential candidate is only presenting a black-and-white snapshot of what they hope to accomplish in office.

If you go so far as to color in the picture, like Hillary tries to do, it’s basically a lie because one, once in office you’re going to be relying on lots of people to present ideas and specifics and two, it’s impossible to predict what will actually come to fruition in the future.

This is the reason why so many people get upset with politicians who promise big things when they’re running for office but can’t deliver once they get there.

The debate ended with Holt asking both candidates if they would accept the result of the election and support the winner.

Strangely enough, after over 90 minutes of contentious bickering, both candidates indicated that they would accept the results.

Overall, I would have to agree with the post-debate punditry that Clinton kept Trump on the defensive most of the evening, but Holt’s questions focusing on race, birthirism and Trump’s tax returns set her up for attacks on issues where she would come off as strong.

The chattering class will certainly claim she “won” the debate, but I highly doubt it will change the balance of the race much, if any – and that is a win for Trump. Hillary certainly didn’t come across as likable, appearing arrogant and smug much of the program with a ridiculous grin on her face or sporting a tired, weak expressionless glance at others.

Trump “behaved” himself for the most part, looking presidential. That’s a win for him.

There are two more debates to go before Election Day. Trump will get better; Clinton will stay the same. It’s going to be an interesting six weeks, for sure.

The New York Times and Washington Post continue their open Hillary advocacy

Regardless of how the media will spin the results of the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, one thing will always remain the same: the big city major newspapers are going to be firmly planted in the pro-Hillary camp – and that goes for their editorial boards as well as their on-the-beat reporters.

Two of the biggest papers couldn’t resist digging at Trump over the past weekend.

Cyra Master of The Hill reports, “One day after The New York Times endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, it published a scathing editorial titled, ‘Why Donald Trump Should Not Be President’ and warning voters that they could hand ‘the White House to a man far more consumed with himself than with the nation’s well-being.’…

“The editorial questions the GOP nominee’s policy positions and issues on which he has yet to make his stance clear, asking voters to consider his ‘silence about areas of national life that are crying out for constructive change’ such as reducing poverty, making racial progress and changing the tax code.”

Of course there’s more to the Times’ blather, mostly centering on Trump’s personality and temperament. It’s almost as if the editorial was written by someone in the Clinton campaign or by a disgruntled #NeverTrumper. Many times they are undistinguishable since they both sound about the same.

Also as reported by Master, the author of the Times’ editorial piece asks rhetorically about Trump, “Our presidents are role models for generations of our children. Is this the example we want for them?”

Presidents are role models? Seriously? JFK a role model? Lyndon Johnson? “Tricky” Richard Nixon? Jimmy Carter? Bill Clinton, whose extra-marital exploits are the stuff of legends (not to mention his cover-ups). All role models?

If Rush Limbaugh were reading the editorial on the radio, I can just hear the pause in his voice as he finished that last sentence, together with the all-too-familiar sound of the drumming of his fingers while he tries unsuccessfully to stifle a hearty laugh. The New York Times is talking about role models for heaven’s sake?

Does that imply we should offer up Hillary Clinton as a role model?

Do they not even read their own newspaper? Americans have endured a full quarter century of Clinton scandals ranging from “bimbo eruptions” to Whitewater to Vince Foster to Travelgate to “Vast right wing conspiracy” over Monica Lewinsky to Benghazi to Crooked Hillary’s more recent email scandal to lies over her health…the list goes on and on and on and on...

I sure as heck don’t want my kids to be anything like Hillary Clinton, who is the poster child for corrupt pay-as-you-play politicians who’ve fed off the public trough for decades after she finished her leftwing activism training under the likes of Saul Alinsky.

By comparison, if mostly ethically clean Donald Trump (warts and all) is wrong for the country, I don’t want to be right. I wouldn’t tell my kids to emulate certain aspects of his personal history, but professionally speaking, he’s a pretty good figure to look up to.

And there’s no doubt he loves this country. That’s good in my book.

As if the rebuke from the Times wasn’t enough, the Washington Post piled on Trump as well.

Again, Cyra Master of The Hill reports, “At the same time The New York Times editorial board published a scathing piece saying GOP nominee Donald Trump is unfit to be president, The Washington Post added its own perspective.

“In an editorial titled, ‘It’s beyond debate that Donald Trump is unfit to be president,’ the Post said Monday’s much anticipated debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton won’t change the argument at the heart of the presidential race.”

Like with the Times editorial, the Post focused on Trump’s past behavior. Again, it’s flabbergasting to see how these people can completely ignore the long and pockmarked trail that Crooked Hillary has left in order to assert that Trump is personally “unfit” for office.

And it only exposes their bias. For what it’s worth, Trump wasn’t impressed with the New York Times’ opinion.

The truth is, anyone whom the voters deem as fit to serve can be president, assuming he or she meets the eligibility requirements expressed in the Constitution. It sure as heck isn’t up to the editorial boards of major newspapers or commentators at cable channels to decide who would make the fittest president.

The whole affair demonstrates a real kind of arrogance for the elites from the media to look down on Trump when Crooked Hillary is lurking and lying (literally) in the background.

No wonder the newspaper industry is going bankrupt.

Will Donald Trump carry through with his decision to appoint conservative Justices?

As last night demonstrates, though it’s extremely difficult to determine which promises any presidential candidate will actually follow through with once in office, Donald Trump’s judicial appointments this year shouldn’t be one of them.

Trump released a proposed set of potential Supreme Court nominees months ago and added quite a few names to it last Friday, all good conservatives given the stamp of approval by entities such as the Heritage Foundation.

Nevertheless, some members of #NeverTrump still maintain that judicial appointments alone aren’t justification enough to vote for Trump this year, simply because they don’t trust him to follow through on his promises to send their nominations to Congress.

#NeverTrumper J. Cal Davenport writes at The Resurgent, “If Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush can nominate justices who reinforce horrific liberal decisions and legislation, how much more can we expect Trump, who evinces no understanding of the Constitution and no interest in liberty, to be more discreet in his nominations?...

“My own guess is that, should he win the presidency, his conservative nominations will get shot down by liberals in the Senate (which he might help the GOP lose) and he will come back with centrist, pro-executive, big government judges.”

I think Davenport is way off base on this for several reasons. First, since Trump has already released his list he’s bound to pick from it or else face a storm of backlash unlike any he’s ever experienced before in the political realm.

If Trump is smart, if his first nominee from the list is rejected he’ll pick arguably the most “controversial” conservative judge next to shut down the place until the Senate relents.

Second, should he decide to deviate from the list he’ll lose conservative support for his other programs which are meaningful to him (like George W. Bush did). Failing as president is the last thing Trump wants to do because holding office, unlike building buildings or hosting a reality TV show, is what he’ll be remembered for.

Third, unlike the last two Republican presidents, Trump will fight for his nominees. Trump will use the court of public opinion to rally his grassroots army. With the right nominees, he’ll also have friends in the Senate who will battle just as hard to get his appointments through.

Lastly, Trump will hold out as long as it takes to get what he wants. As a “dealmaker” he’ll figure a way to push through his priorities. A clever negotiator knows when to hold the line and when to compromise. Only a true “outsider” will have the credibility to come in and make demands. I think Trump will have it.

He can offer the Democrats to push some measure that could be stalled and where there is general agreement from both parties. I’m not sure what that might be at this point, but it could be a way to get things moving.

At any rate, the possibility Trump might cave on one issue isn’t enough for #NeverTrump to continue holding out. Simply put, they just don’t have much of a leg to stand on anymore.

Not only can Trump get to 270, he will do it easier than the Democrats think

Finally today, it will no doubt take days to filter through the reaction to last night’s debate, but that’s not stopping people from making projections as to which of the candidates will reach the magic number of 270 Electoral Votes on November 8.

Buoyed by polls that continue to show Crooked Hillary with a slight lead in the projected popular vote, Democrats are confident they’ll be able to beat Trump in the one measure that truly counts.

Liberal Bill Scher writes at Real Clear Politics, “Yes, Trump can get to 270.

“But a big dark cloud hangs over that path: Trump’s minimal interest in get-out-the-vote operations.  Without much campaign infrastructure, can Trump gut out the slew of close state races needed to go against the grain of what will likely be a popular vote loss nationally?”

In his article, Scher automatically concedes to Trump most of the states Mitt Romney won in 2012 though he notes a few of them are close in the polls. He also gives Trump Florida, Iowa and Ohio, leaving the Republican nominee with 266 Electoral Votes (including one from Maine’s 2nd district).

Which means that in order to win, Trump would need to take one of the “blue” states that always go Democrat, specifically Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.

The main point of Scher’s argument is Trump won’t be able to compete with Hillary and the Democrats’ on-the-ground campaign operations that will turn close races into Democrat wins. Along the way, the pundit discounts the efforts of the RNC to help Trump with the party get-out-the-vote operation.

This is all speculation, of course, and no one will know for sure whether Scher’s right until Election Day.

I believe if Trump has momentum in the race as he did in the primaries that his people will turn out in more than sufficient numbers to allow him to get to 270. And I don’t think it will be close if the conditions are right. Hillary is such an unpopular candidate that if Trump wins one of the “close” states he’d be just as likely to win them all.

“Experts” like Scher can write all they want about intrinsic advantages but if your candidate is awful and loathed like Hillary is, then it’s not going to make any difference how many people you pay to go out and stand on street corners begging people to vote for her.

Scher concludes, “Trailing in the national polls all year, Trump’s path to victory is uphill. But his campaign is not designed to run uphill. Two hundred and seventy electoral votes was always going to be a stretch for Trump, but the master builder hasn’t built much campaign infrastructure to take advantage of what little opportunity he has.”

I would bet there’s more than enough infrastructure in place to do the job for Trump. If the national mood is right, Trump will win. After last night’s debate, we’ll know in a few days how well the people thought each candidate really did.

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The Debate

Excellent and well thought out column. You are so right about that "Equal pay for women’s work." comment. I cringed when I heard her say that and wonder
where's the outrage. Sure, it was a "misspeak" by Hillary, but imagine if Trump had said anything similar to that? I might add that Hillary's advantage in the ground game (much like her advantage in money) will be overcome by Trump's advantage in the enthusiasm of his supporters. Hillary cannot turn out a decent sized rally nor does she have the personality to be able to do anything with it if she ever did. Regardless who you might have thought won last night's debate, Trump's standing up with her on such a grand stage cannot
help but getting the "acting Presidential" check off his bucket list.