In debate, Trump is no Mitt Romney. In his first debate with Obama, Romney sliced and diced, and made Obama look clueless. He was perfect. Cruz, or Rubio, or Pence, or a lot of smart conservatives, could have done the same to Clinton last night.
Trump did well at first, but then he started to get pissed off. He got trolled. And when the brass at NBC signaled to Lester Holt that he’d better jump in and join the trolling, things got worse. Trump seemed to let his temper get the best of him. If Anderson Cooper gets under his skin the way Holt did, he’ll “lose” the second debate as badly as the first.
“Lose” is in quotes because this was the first period of a three period game, and he’s down a goal, but has two periods to make it up. He’s still in it. He didn’t disqualify himself. And to the guys at the union halls in Macomb County, Michigan, he won. These guys don’t like plastic bananas like Clinton, and they’re still pissed off about NAFTA, 22 years after it was ratified. He’s got their vote, it’s in the bag. Four years ago they didn’t bother to show up, and it cost Romney the election. They’ll turn out for Trump.
But he needs help with women, and he’s got to help himself. The town hall format in the next debate, just two weeks away, should allow him to show sympathy for the legitimate concerns of the people asking the questions. And if smug socialite Anderson Cooper (heir to the Vanderbilt fortune) starts getting too cute, Trump should cut him off. Cleverly, though, with a scalpel, not a meat ax.
Then comes the grand finale, on October 19th, with Fox’s Chris Wallace in the moderator’s chair. The last debate is the most important (unless it’s one of the first two — nobody knows anything), and it will set up the last, crucial, three weeks of the campaign. If Trump can get a bounce out of it, he can ride the momentum all the way to November 8th, and the White House.
Roger Simon at PJ Media picked up on something I didn’t see. Right at the end, when Trump was defending himself against charges of sexism, he was tempted to go after Hillary Clinton, as The Enabler of a Sexual Predator. But he checked himself. He says it was because Chlelsea Clinton was in the audience, and it made him uncomfortable. By this time he was so pissed off that he might have blown the whole thing. But he restrained himself, and lives to fight another day.
Also at PJ Media, Ted Cruz gives his assessment, and it’s worth a read. If you admire Cruz, as I do, his explanation of his non-endorsement in Cleveland, and his recent reversal, makes complete sense. If you don’t like Cruz, it’a all CYA. But what he says sounds true to me.
So there is hope. He’ll need to change, but if there’s one thing Trump’s good at, it’s maneuver.