Written September 27, 2016     

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Who do you think won?

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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Hillary won.

I'm voting for Trump, and he did an OK job, but she won.

On the biggest night of their lives, Hillary was better prepared and more focused. And Trump, who has been disciplined and surging for more than a month, picked the wrong night to be mediocre.

I hope the polls show that it was a wash, that most people felt it was a tie. I hope it doesn't change the momentum of this race, which had clearly been going Trump's direction.

Here's how I think it went.

She looked good, and he snuffed his nose too much. Neither one of those things is substantive, but they both counted. She, who has been fighting illness and fatigue, looked fresh and even attractive. She had had a makeover and it worked. She also purposely smiled -- which doesn't seem to be her nature -- and she kept an upbeat, friendly air to her voice and expression.

And he kept sniffing.

It quickly went from distracting to grating.

He also fairly quickly went on the attack. Not that that's always bad, but being the one doing the interrupting and talking over is maybe not the best place to be in a debate where all you really have to do is look kind of presidential.

I thought Hillary was intensely prepared. She had a smooth transition into everything she said, and everything she said was purposeful, and intended to highlight a specific Trump weakness or reach out to a specific group she needed.

And so she got in the obligatory spiel about "systemic racism" in the criminal justice system, and a call for shorter sentences and more alternatives to incarceration. Another time she got in the whole women's agenda -- everything from pay to family leave and day care -- and to draw in the young voters she needs in her coalition, she twice ran through the Bernie Sanders litany of freebies.

And she said she was going to make the rich pay their fair share as often as she could.

For his part, Trump talked a lot about how taxes and regulations have pushed jobs and profits overseas, and that policies need to change to bring those back. He said we had bad trade deals, and bad deals with foreign powers.

The problem was, in a race where both candidates are disliked -- and so being congenial becomes a vote getter -- Hillary was the more likeable of the two. Trump sometimes seemed a little rattled, and his facial expressions weren't as nice as Hillary's.

She probably did a 95-percent job of effectively communicating her positions -- which I happen to disagree with, by the way -- but he was probably closer to 80-percent effective.

On the plus side for Trump, he didn't melt down, he didn't act like an idiot, and he didn't call anybody any names. Further, much of what he said and stood for will resonate with a great many voters.

"We have to kick the hell out of the Islamic State," Trump said, to the cheers of a bunch of people like me.

Unfortunately, he didn't have a good answer for his tax returns -- he could have pointed out that years ago the Clintons itemized their donated underwear -- and he allowed Hillary to paint him as the liar when the facts and the polls show that she's the one Americans don't believe.

Both candidates made collossal mistatements, but neither were challenge on it.

Hillary, for her part, called NATO, "the longest military alliance in the history of the world."

That is, of course, nowhere near true. NATO is about 70 years old, while many societies around the world have had alliances that have stretched over centuries. Ask the Chinese, the Greeks or the Iroquois.

Trump, for his part, threw out one of the foundations of American national security.

Asked by the moderator in a deliberately non-specific way what he would do about America's "first-use" nuclear policy -- the question trying to trip Trump up if he didn't know what that was -- led to a response that pretty much showed Trump doesn't know what that is.

"I certainly would not do a first strike," Trump said.

That sounds nice and neighborly, but it is the exact opposite of American defensive posture since we invented nukes. When you tell the world that you won't throw the first punch, you invite impunity and difficulty. We kept the second half of the 20th Century fairly quiet by letting the world know that if we thought they posed a threat to us, we'd launch nukes and fry them before they could fry us.

Apparently Trump didn't know that.

Or decided to change that.

Hopefully the reporters will overlook it.

I'm a Trump voter, and I was looking for the game-winning run tonight. I didn't see it. Hillary knew when to have a good night, and Trump didn't. If this were boxing, it wasn't a knockout, but it was a decision, and it might not have been a split decision.

Hillary won the first debate, perchance the most-viewed political debate in American history.

But the election's not for six weeks, and Mitt Romney won his first debate.

And Donald Trump can still win this election.

And heaven help us if he doesn't.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2016

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