It is thought to be the most watched debate in history, with almost 100 million peole tuning in to watch the US presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump go head to head in the first of three TV debates. The figures show a remarkable level of interest. But did the debate live up to expectations?
To a great extent it was a trip around the usual and well-rehearsed positions where both sought to exploit areas in which they think they have an advantage. But the debate should tell the Democrats and Hillary Clinton something fundamantal.
So Trump was challenged about a statement he made saying that Clinton did not have the “look” necessary for a President, and trying to avoid the obvious sexism trap he turned it to the issue of Clinton’s health and somehow “look” became stamina. It didn’t make any differnce because Clinton went down the sexism route anyway.
And predictably Clinton also went down the racist route using Trump’s now-reversed belief that Barack Obama was not born in the US, but she has plenty of other evidence to call on for this charge.
And she played on the fears of a volatile Trump as Commander-in-Chief and him getting his hands on the nuclear codes and his praise for Putin and his rash tongue-in-cheek remark inviting the Russian leader to hack US computer networks.
And the final box to be ticked was the repetition of the criticism that Trump has somehitng to hide and that’s why he has not released his tax details. So how will Clinton and the Democrats be feeling about the debate? Probably pretty smug, and that is where the greatest danger lies.
The US mainstream media, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News, the LA Times, all came out saying that Clinton had won the debate.
A CNN/ORC poll taken after the debate found that 62% of voters who had watched the head-to-head thought that Mrs Clinton came out on top, with just 27% giving it to Mr Trump. A post-debate survey by Public Policy Polling of 1,002 found that 51% of national voters thought Clinton had won, with 40% choosing Trump and 9% undecided.
So Clinton and the Democrats probably think they are doing enough. But Trump has been continually underestimated throughout his bid for the White House, he has already achieved what everybody said was impossible.
And now Clinton and the Democrats are simply doing more of the same in their attempts to neutralise Trump. The truth is they still do not actually relise why Trump remains a viable threat, it is not by and large his policies, although immigration is a fear, and it is not his winning charm. It is because above all else Trump offers change, he holds out the promise of a new America, even if it is an America that makes mistakes. Clinton, and the media, are the establishment in a country seen as failing by many of its citizens and the clamour is at the gates. They need to offer radical change if they are to be sure to keep Trump out.