Whatever you thought of last night’s debate, there’s no question who won the post-debate spin war. Trump and his surrogates were disorganized, defensive, incoherent, delusional, and outnumbered seemingly in the hundreds of thousands. I didn’t expect that after the first thirty minutes. In fact, after the first thirty minutes I thought that the debate would be over whether Trump’s gigantic victory would be undermined by his aggressiveness in interrupting so much. I was thinking that his numbers with women would be substantially worse than they were with men.
His initial strategy was solid. He would hit Clinton relentlessly on manufacturing job loss, NAFTA and TPP, and keep a laser focus on states in the Midwest like Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin that are theoretically winnable for him and where that message would resonate the best. He would ask her why we should trust her to fix the mess that’s been made in our gutted out factory towns when she’s been in DC for thirty years and things have only gotten worse. He’d blame her for the rise of ISIS and instability in the Middle East and point out that things really spun out of control on her watch at the State Department.
He was cutting her repeatedly and she was having difficulty forming a defense because he was so aggressive.
As I said, the interruptions and aggressiveness came with a downside, but as long as she couldn’t hit back it was working.
Alas, Trump didn’t have the stamina to sustain the attack. And eventually the debate turned to other matters, like cybersecurity, where Trump needed to demonstrate more than an ability to attack Clinton’s record.
Things really began to turn against Trump at about the hour mark. It reminded me of a boxing match where a knockout artist expends all their energy in the opening rounds but fails to put their opponent on the canvas. It happened to George Foreman against Muhammed Ali. It happened to Mike Tyson against Buster Douglas. Of course, those were two of the biggest upsets in boxing history, and last night wasn’t that, exactly. But Trump did eventually get exposed and the more skilled boxer won all the middle and late rounds, getting a solid unanimous decision in the polls and throughout the world of punditry.
[UPDATE] I got spoofed by a fake Giuliani Twitter account. It’s a pretty good one, but I apologize for the mistake.
I was surprised that Trump’s surrogates seemed so ready to concede that he had not done well. They were clearly demoralized and low energy in the wake of Trump’s late debate collapse.
Of course, once people get some sleep and a little time to form a strategy, it’s possible to get back on track. But Trump came out of the box this morning with a flurry of self-injurious stupidity. Probably nothing was more of a roundhouse to his own face than his decision to defend his mistreatment of 1996 Miss Universe winner, Alicia Machado:
Donald Trump pushed back against criticism he received from Hillary Clinton during last night’s debate regarding his treatment of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, saying “she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”
Trump made his remarks on “Fox and Friends” this morning in response to Clinton pointing out that Trump called Machado “Miss Piggy” while berating the Republican nominee’s overall treatment of women.
“She was the winner, and, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” Trump said of Machado. “We had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her.”
Trump spoke about Machado’s appearance today while answering a question about whether or not Clinton had gotten under his skin. He said that she hadn’t done so, and went on to describe Machado as “the worst we ever had,” a reference to Miss Universe winners.
In addition to this bizarre effort at outreach to women and Latinos, Trump blamed his performance on his microphone and suggested it might have been sabotaged deliberately, falsely claimed to have won all the post-debate polls except for CNN‘s (which is 180° from the truth), whined about moderator Lester Holt, and claimed he wasn’t sniffling loudly throughout the debate. On the last point, his sniffling was so loud and distracting that Howard Dean speculated he was high on cocaine and #TrumpCocaine trended on Twitter. In fact, #TrumpSniffles became a classic internet meme before the debate even ended.
— Kathy (@mydoggigi) September 27, 2016
it would be irresponsible not to speculate. But a long-form drug test result would ease the minds of people asking questions.
— Martin Longman (@BooMan23) September 27, 2016
Trump is so busy stepping on rakes that he’ll probably avoid paying a specific price for many of his substantive blunders in the debate. After all, his answer on cyberterrorism involved an explanation of his 10 year old son’s aptitude with computers, he did not seem to understand nuclear first strike policy (saying both that he was for it and against it), and he told a number of bald-faced and easy to verify lies.
Here’s a partial list of those:
We rounded up 11 of the leading misleading whoppers from the debate:
1) Trump: “I do not say” climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
2) Trump to Clinton: “You’ve been fighting ISIS your whole life.”
3) Trump claimed to have not called women “pigs, slobs, and dogs.”
4) Trump said he was endorsed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement border patrol agency.
5) Trump said he did not support the Iraq War.
6) Trump: I only got a “very small” business loan from my father.
7) Trump denied that he claimed to not care if Asian countries got nukes.
8) Trump claimed he released the “most extensive” financial review in political history.
9) Trump blamed the “birther” conspiracy theories on Clinton allies.
10) Trump claimed American manufacturing is in decline.
11) Trump: NATO focuses on terrorism because of me.
Of course, some out of work father in Steubenville, Ohio might not be going to Vox to verify Trump’s claims. It’s still possible that he will continue to advance in the polls. He did score some points in the debate.
But there is absolutely no question that he’s taking a pummeling over his performance this morning and that his response isn’t helping him recover.