Debate Night: Town Hall Edition

Trump Remains Standing

Tale of the Tape

Going into this debate, the GOP campaign was in turmoil. After a video came out of Republican nominee and casual rapist Donald Trump bragging about using his fame to sexually assault women, it looked over. To be frank, it still does. But unlike his disastrous outing in the first debate, he was clearly better prepared going into this one.

In what has to be the sleaziest use of a ‘plus one’ ever used in a presidential debate, Trump actually invited three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct in the past and one woman who was assaulted by a man whom Hillary represented in court as a defendant (she used to be a lawyer).

Trump needed desperately to change the narrative here. After that damning tape, many GOP officials who had endorsed Trump began jumping ship. I think he may have, but not enough to change the conversation. Let’s break it down:

The Highlights

Trump was constantly whining, especially at the start. He complained that the moderators weren’t allowing him to respond when they jumped in to… you know — moderate. He also moaned about the questions and demanded that the moderators grill Clinton about her emails. They politely dismissed his groans and proceeded to grill Hillary about her emails.

The debate began, however, with a laser focus on the 2005 tape of Trump on a hot mic, casually discussing sexually assaulting various women with human pustule Billy Bush.

This tape is beyond the pale, even for Trump, but — real talk — I think we all knew. We all knew what kind of man he was. This tape should not have shocked anyone about Trump’s attitude, although hearing it explicitly may well be jarring. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a link (the language is graphic and explicit).

It wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the first debate, though. Democratic nominee and the political equivalent of cannibalism in order to avoid starvation; Hillary Clinton faced some tougher questions this time around and was forced to fend off Trump’s constant pressure and attacks. She got into ‘lawyer mode’ for a bit and was frankly caught red-handed with some of the lies and half-truths she’s spouted.

She did what she does and tap danced with an unnecessarily high amount of very unconvincing words. She looked exposed and the fact check backs it up.

Russia did come up. This has been underreported, but the simple fact is that the Russian government has been hacking Hillary and the Democratic National Committee in order to get Trump elected. Vladimir Putin is very heavily in favor of Donald Trump and is desperate to tip the scales in his favor.

This also led to one of the most amazing moments in which Trump threw his running mate, Indiana Governor and inspiration for Futurama character “Kif”; Mike Pence under the bus. After Pence assured voters the GOP ticket would take a hard stance on Russia, Trump tonight said he and Pence “haven’t talked” and that that’s not actually the plan.

Final Word

This was a nasty, bitter, and churlish debate. It was downright depressing. I don’t think this debate will be enough to stop the bleeding for Trump, though. He is in freefall and the GOP is beginning to sense defeat.

The numbers back them up. The FiveThirtyEight polling model (the gold standard of objective political statistical analysis) has Hillary with an ~80% likelihood of winning in their polls-plus forecast (as of this posting).

Trump is about out of time. He’ll have to change the game at the last debate. Notice I didn’t say “win”. Outperforming Clinton one last time won’t be enough.

He’ll have to completely shift the tone and tenor of the race next Wednesday if he wants any chance to implement the apocalyptic fascist vision he has incoherently blathered throughout the course of his campaign.

For Hillary, it’s still somehow hers to lose.