Trump v. Clinton: the Cage Match of the Century


First Presidential Debate. Labeled for Reuse Under Wikimedia Commons

Only a little more than a month before the election, Monday night revealed to the American public the first direct interaction between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on a national stage. The hour and a half long debate provided viewers a glimpse into what the world will look like under each nominee: one of an unfiltered business man, and the other of an accident-prone politician. The performances added to each of the respective candidate’s possibility to clinch the nomination and strengthened their platforms, giving undecided voters long awaited reasons to vote. Yet ultimately, the public can merely speculate as to who will claim victory with what was seen Monday night. The true victor can only be decided on November 6th. Following are the contrasting opinions of Managing Editor Jonathan Flat and Junior Managing Editor Robert Corl.

Flat – Another Step Towards President Trump

The Republican nominee’s performance at the first presidential debate shattered expectations and illuminates his pathway to the presidency. During the debate, voters witnessed a presidential Trump who connected with the people and stood firm behind strong, passionate messages.

Donald’s most decisive victory of the debate was his performance in the first half hour. In this opening segment, titled “Achieving Prosperity,” Trump focuses his energy on discussing job security and expertly branding Clinton as the political insider—the status quo. In a segment that concentrated on the economy and trade, Trump smashes Clinton’s reputation by saying, “Hillary, I’d just ask you this. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now? For 30 years, you’ve been doing it, and now you’re just starting to think of solutions.” This statement acutely targets Clinton’s failure to bring change to the economy in an entire lifetime of politics and stigmatizes her as a politician who cannot and has not accomplished beneficial change in Washington. Trump’s riveting start to the debate portrayed an excellent first impression on the stage that will last with voters. Additionally, some viewers may have lacked attentiveness to the broadcast and ended their viewing while the Republican possessed an extraordinary lead. Having a secure start to the debate, Trump left the impression of a powerful and presidential candidate who can be trusted by his audience.

Trump was the most authentic and trustworthy candidate on the stage. Although preparation is important for any debate, Clinton went entirely overboard. Her speech was robotic and extremely processed, presenting the Democratic nominee as more of a cyborg than a human being. It’s wonderful that Clinton can memorize her lines, but what would happen if she needed to make situational decisions. Her debate performance gave voters no assurance that Clinton could make imminent and crucial decisions as president. Juxtaposed to this mechanized persona, Trump displayed an aura of humanity. “The undecideds saw a human being in Donald Trump,” said New York Representative Chris Collins. He gave a breath of fresh air to voters who desired change—voters who found themselves tired of years of lackluster economic growth and weak foreign policy under the Obama and Clinton administration. Further, Trump authenticity spawns from his style of debate; Trump was not afraid to interject his ideas, clarifying misleading accusations by Secretary Clinton. Surprisingly, Trump refrained from hitting hard on Clinton’s private email server, foundation, role in Benghazi, and lying on these subjects. Yet, this showed a more composed side of Donald Trump, one we would expect from a president of the United States. Ultimately, Trump allowed the audience to connect with his passion, strengthening his path to the presidency.

Corl – Trumping the Trump

This year’s presidential race has been unusual and full of firsts, to say the least. The victor of the 2016 presidential race will not be defined by their policies, nor by their peers. Instead, this election cycle will mostly be determined by all of the factors that should otherwise be inconsequential details when appointing the next president of the United States of America. Yet, the public continues to latch onto political scandals like a child to their mother and is indifferent to the actual politics in, well, politics. Therefore if that is the lens that the American people wish to see through, then that is how the debate should be judged. In that case, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party clearly took the lead with her convincing performance on Monday night.

Despite the scandals that haunt Hillary Clinton’s political career, her performance in the debate was nothing but calm, collected, and professional. In the face of scrutiny from either Donald Trump or the moderator, Lester Holt, she retained her composed state. Clinton’s impressive performance and Trump’s usual unprofessional idiosyncrasies decidedly handed the debate to the Democrats, and gave undecided voters a candidate they could feel comfortable with running the country. The polls and news reports only back that up.

The Economist voiced its opinion on the matter the night after the debate: “But what did the 10-20% of voters who tell pollsters that they are undecided, or planning to vote for a third party, see? They saw one candidate who was well prepared and a bit rambling, and another who was downright weird at times. 1-0 to Mrs Clinton.” Trump may have started off strong and seemingly presidential in the first fifteen minutes of the debate, yet he quickly reverted back to his unfiltered primary election self, saying any word that came to mind; a technique that is far less than presidential and will not resonate with many of the undecided voters. Yet, some polls still say Trump won. In reality, few of those polls, if any, are reliable. NPR pointed out that most of the polls Trump trumped Clinton in were either “very Trump-friendly sites” or social media polls that were “essentially unscientific Internet popularity contests”  with “no predictive value.” So as far as the polls and news agencies are concerned, Clinton performed much better than her Republican counterpart.

But the real deciding factor for each candidate’s success in clinching the nomination will come from the undecided voters. For those voters that want to vote but are having a tough time deciding, they need not look further than what they saw in the debate. Not only were the candidate’s behaviors representative of how they have always been, but representative of how they will act in office. Clinton was prepared, Trump was not. Clinton was professional, Trump was not. Clinton tried to ignore political scandals and focus on policy, and well, Trump definitely did not. So in they eye of the undecided voter, they clearly saw one candidate who is fit to be president, and holds all of the characteristics of one, and another who is anything but. Clinton’s performance provided reasons to vote for her. At the very least, Trump’s performance did not. Therefore, Clinton and the Democrats take the first presidential debate and may potentially ride this victory all the way to the White House.