(Charleston, West Virginia) – Sometimes when a major political event happens, the tendency of pundits and politicos is to react right away. Since I only write this column weekly, I like to let things simmer for several days before I weigh in. There is a lot to “brunch” on this week:
“Who Won; Who Lost?” – There was a lot of consternation over that question all week. I quoted a CNN poll, out Tuesday, that said 62 percent of viewers believed Hillary Clinton won, versus 27 percent who thought Donald Trump won. A viewer immediately wrote in asking me why I did not quote any of the online polls that showed Trump won. Here is the difference: CNN’s poll was the only one with a scientifically-drawn, representative sample from the pollster. (Gallup also had one with similar results out by Friday.) As I pointed out to the viewer, online polls are not scientific because anyone can randomly vote, and even vote many times if they wish).
“Where’s the Beef? (I Mean the Bump?)” – If Clinton really beat Trump that badly, then she should have seen a big spike in voter preference polls. Yet a “Los Angeles Times” poll after the debate had Trump leading nationally by five points; and, conversely, a Fox News poll had Clinton up five points. Here is the real preference number that matters: Among Clinton, Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green candidate Jill Stein, the last dozen national polls indicate 94.4 percent of the public has made up its mind. Yes, the numbers for each candidate have fluctuated, but apparently only 5.6 percent of the voters are still undecided. Clinton may have won the debate handily, but it hardly moved the needle. This race remains close.
“Is it Over?” – Good lord, no! That 5.6 percent of the electorate is about to choose the next President. The latest Real Clear Politics Composite Poll has it 44 percent for Clinton to 41 percent for Trump (and the Libertarian and Green taking just shy of 10 percent). In reality, Clinton and Trump are duking it out for the final 5 percent of the voters, in a race where the margin is just 3 percent. It’s still a competitive race.
“Bad Debate Death Knell” – There is a myth that if you blow one debate (especially the critical first debate), it’s all over. That’s simply not true. Ronald Reagan was just awful in his first reelection debate in 1984, but won in November by a landslide. Barack Obama was equally befuddled in his first reelection debate in 2012, but came on strong later and easily won a second term. Trump has two more bites at the apple.
“Temperament” – I had Monday night’s debate scored even through the first hour (based on debate style, not on policy points). But in the last 20 minutes, Trump simply melted down under the heat of some provocative questions and issues. His low point was losing his temper, while discussing – of all things - what a great temperament he has. It was rich with irony. He spoke of also having more stamina than Clinton, but kept repeating himself and seemed frustrated. Meanwhile, her health issues were not evident. He argued that he has more stamina and a better temperament, but his performance suggested the exact opposite. The only blessing for him is that Trump's meltdown happened in the last quarter hour, when viewership traditionally dwindles a lot from the start of the debate.
“White House vs. NFL” – I think this is just bizarre, but NBC will not be carrying the next debate on Sunday night, October 9. Sure, it will be on CNBC and MSNBC, but not on the mothership network. Making matters worse is that the game pits two of the original, storied NFL teams - the Green Bay Packers versus the New York Giants. The first debate drew 81 million viewers, while NFL football on Sunday night averages 23 million viewers. You do the math. This may actually be a plus for Trump, who scores his highest marks among adult white males (a big audience likely to watch the game, instead of the debate). Because of that, Trump has a chance to persuade other voters – especially the undecideds - who may still watch the debate.
“The Politics of Anger” – For almost a year now, people have been asking me why Hillary Clinton can’t put the competition away. She has a long resume with lots of experience, but she consistently has trouble sealing the deal. She was supposed to be a slam-dunk in 2008, yet Barack Obama beat her. She was a shoo-in for 2016, but Bernie Sanders almost beat her. Now she theoretically should have a huge lead over the politically-inexperienced Donald Trump; yet he’s right at her heels. Look, the public is very, very mad. That’s how Trump got here; that’s how Bernie Sanders nearly made it to the finish line. Unless Clinton can convince that remaining 5 percent that she "gets" their anger and frustration, she may not win.
“VP Debate” – Tuesday night from Farmville, Virginia, we'll see the one-and-only Vice Presidential debate. The debates for the number-two slot always draw big audiences and usually have some amusing surprises. But they’ve never changed the outcome of the race for the White House in any significant way. Tim Kaine and Mike Pence are two very experienced and astute politicians. It will be an informative debate, but not a game changer,
What are your thoughts on the first debate? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.
Photo courtesy: cbs.com