Who Won the Debate and Why

I’ve always had trouble with how media pundits decide who won a debate. It’s pretty clear that last night, most Americans thought that Clinton won. We don’t tend to get a lot of data on why they made that decision. But when it comes to pundits, they usually base their analysis on who got in the best zinger and/or who made the biggest guffaw. On the latter, the pretty unanimous decision was that it came from Trump when he was asked directly whether or not he will accept the result of this election. He said that he’ll keep us in suspense and look at it at the time. As many have noted, that is disqualifying for a presidential candidate.

Beyond that though, my yard stick for measuring winners is rooted in the fact that these two candidates are running to be our next president. As people whose task it is to pick a winner in that contest, we deserve to know what each of them plan to do in that position. Call me naive, but I have this notion that a debate should be about who has a better platform for taking on the challenges we face.

With that in mind, I read through the transcript of what each of these candidates said in that regard last night. Here is the totality of what Trump offered:

  • Appoint SCOTUS justices who will defend the 2nd amendment and overturn Roe v Wade
  • Have strong borders, build a wall and get “bad hombres” out
  • Renegotiate trade deals
  • Cut taxes massively
  • Have leaders in big business negotiate our trade deals
  • In order to fix entitlements, cut taxes and get rid of Obamacare

That’s it folks. In an hour and a half debate, those are the policy proposals articulated by Trump – with little else by way of details. You might remember that there were other issues discussed – like the battle to re-take Mosul and the civil war in Syria. But other than the few words listed above, all Trump offered were attacks on Clinton (and Obama).

I could go in to a refutation about how wrong Trump is on the few items he actually proposed. It’s hard to skip over the fact that he said he wants corporate leaders to negotiate our trade deals. You have to wonder if any of his supporters actually heard that one. But debating Trump on those things is not my point. I’ve been saying all along that his campaign isn’t based on actually policy – it’s all about fomenting anger and fear. On my scorecard, that’s also why he lost last night.

On the other hand Clinton articulated her position on SCOTUS nominees, defended the 2nd amendment and common sense gun safety, defended Roe v Wade, offered a clear plan for how to grow our economy, reiterated her commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, discussed the importance of retaking Mosul from ISIS and then move on to retake Raqqa in Syria, defended her support for a no-fly zone in Syria, articulated the importance of working to stop home-grown terrorism, reiterated that her investments in economic growth will be paid for by having the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share, alluded to her plan to raise revenue for the Social Security Trust Fund and committed to no reduction in Social Security or Medicare benefits. Whether you agree or disagree with her, she gave us pertinent information about her proposals.

Not only was Clinton able to keep her cool and play the grownup in the room as Trump dissembled, in the short segments these debates allow, she was able to squeeze in as much as possible about what she wants to actually do as president. For me, that’s why she won the debate.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .