New debate, old tricks



10, Oct 2016

The second Presidential debate began in a tense atmosphere. This time however candidates also had to face important questions directly from undecided voters who shared the stage with them. Like last time the candidates managed to find more ways than one to place their opponent at a disadvantage. Most media commentaries place Hillary as the winner while others feel Trump, given the pressure he faced, fared passably.

What were the main policy-related topics of this debate?

  • Healthcare. In relation to Obamacare, an audience member raised the negative outcomes – costs had gone up and coverage had gone down. Clinton acknowledged the cost rise and said her strategy would involve fixing the hikes. But she emphasized on the benefits of Obamacare and therefore while improvements should and would be made, it would remain as the basis.Trump called for striking down Obamacare which he said was a disaster. His strategy was to encourage more insurance companies to enter the arena and compete. This according to him would decrease insurance rates, and cover more people.
  • Islamophobia and Immigration. Trump said Islamophobia was a shameful truth but stuck to his earlier stand and said Muslims need to report any threat of violence they witnessed. He also stood by his comment on “radical Islamic terrorism”. He was equivocal about his earlier call for a Muslim ban.But he firmly opposed Clinton’s plan to increase the influx of refugees manifold (550 percent). Clinton said her plan would be implemented with the strictest of vetting to ensure safety.
  • Taxes. Both candidates stated they would get rid of carried interest – the profit percentage paid to managers of private equity, real estate and other funds – which in practice is taxed at a lower rate. Trump’s plan is to cut income tax rates and place a limit on deductions for the wealthy. Clinton said she would not raise taxes on anyone who made less than $250,000 a year and increase taxes, especially for the creamy layer. In her plan, tax deductions of some kind would be limited and increase the estate tax rate, while extending this tax to more families.
  • Foreign policy. Clinton said she would not deploy American ground forces in Syria against the Assad regime. She felt the current actions such as use of enablers and trainers in Iraq and collaboration with Sunnis and Kurds in the area would be successful in pushing ISIS out of Mosul. She again singled out ISIS’s leader Baghdadi as a priority target.
  • Energy policy. Trump opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions and said they had thrown energy industries in the US into disaster and made US rely on China. His focus would be on reviving coal industry. Clinton also stressed the importance of being energy-independent. Her focus was on a transition to clean, renewable energy. She mentioned fighting climate change was a part of her energy policy. As for the coal industry, she mentioned both sides of the situation – not wanting to leave miners behind and at the same time considering the lower market worth of coal. She said she hoped people would read her entire energy policy on her website.

Why was the opening a tense one?

For Trump

  • Just on Friday, a recording in which Trump had made sexually charged, derogatory and vulgar comments about women was released by two media outlets.
  • For Trump, who has a long record of insulting women, his lame apology did not stem the backlash on social media and from his own party members. Republican Party Speaker Paul Ryan said he “was sickened” by what he heard.Republican Party members called upon Trump to drop out and give the party a chance to defeat Clinton with some other candidate. Trump said the chances that he will quite are “zero”.

For Hillary

  • Trump invited three women who alleged Bill Clinton had raped and sexually assaulted them to attend the debate. One of the women said Hillary had threatened her. There was another woman – Hillary’s old client’s opponent who had been accused of rape. The woman, a twelve year old at the time said Hillary had put her through hell and later laughed at her.

Both candidates did a bad job in side-stepping when they were confronted on the issues. Each targeted the other.

When else did they find themselves in tough spots?


  • He first denied and then tried to speedily change the topic when asked about the video where he bragged about sexually assaulting women. Then he began to evade and repeat weak statements asserting his ‘respect for women’. Hillary was able to capitalize on this and point out how Trump would be unfit to serve as President, an opinion increasingly shared by members of his own party.
  • Hillary brought up his insensitive comments on a judge whose parents were Mexican, on a reported he made fun of, on his racist allegation against Obama and how he never apologized for these or to the parents of Captain Khan who had died while serving in Iraq.


  • Trump pointed out that Bill Clinton had been disbarred and had to settle a lawsuit against one of the women.
  • Wikileaks had leaked what they claimed were Hillary’s paid speeches made in private to investment bankers, lobbyists and corporate executives before she ran for President.Washington Post quoted “The private comments strike a tone starkly at odds with the fiery message she’s pushed throughout her campaign, particularly during the hard-fought Democratic primary. Some of her remarks give fresh fuel to liberals' worst fears about Clinton, namely that she is a political moderate, happy to cut backroom deals with corporate interests and curry favor with Wall Street for campaign dollars.” This was brought up as a question from social media and she was asked to explain her refusal to release these private speeches and her justification that she needed a private and public position on certain issues.

Questions on taxes and e-mails had to be fielded by both candidates again.

Where did their responses to general questions place them?

On modeling positive and appropriate behavior for today’s youth

  • Hillary reiterated her emphasis on the power of togetherness and the need to celebrate diversity. She subtly hit out at Trump through her observation - I've heard from lots of teachers and parents about some of their concerns, about some of the things that are being said and done in this campaign.
  • Trump said the miserable state the country was falling into was what urged him to run for President. He then began to summarize the dangers to US and said he looked forward to make America great again. At this point, Cooper (the moderator) brought up the issue of the video in relation to the question and after an exchange on this Trump concluded repeating the dangers of unchecked immigrants from Middle East and elsewhere and the need to make America safe and wealthy again like he would. He also reiterated his argument that Hillary’s message never went beyond words.

On being a devoted President to all the people of United States

  • Trump started off by hitting out at Hillary for her comment on his supporters – she had called half of Trump’s supporters deplorable and then regretted using the word ‘half’. He repeated his point she had done nothing for 30 years and focused once again on how US was stripped of its greatness. For himself he said, “I will be a president for all of our people. And I will be a president that will turn our inner cities around. And will give strength to people. And will give economics to people. And will bring jobs back.”
  • Hillary pointed out her high approval ratings in previous positions and described how she had made efforts to make America an inclusive country and campaigned for equality irrespective of race and ability. She also repeated her previous comment on the terror Trump’s hate messages had stirred among people.

On one thing good thing they respected in their opponent

  • Hillary said she respects Trump’s children and their devotion says a lot about him. She concluded highlighting there was a lot at stake in this election and hoped people would check out her specific polices and plans and her desire to continue her efforts as President.
  • Trump said he admired Hillary’s perseverance and acknowledged he respects her fighting spirit.

Who won and who lost?

The media consensus is not so overwhelmingly in favor of Clinton this time, but still as majority see it, she has won. The Wall Street made gains upon knowing that Clinton is the winner. The markets love certainty, and Clinton has made her policies very clear while Trump has been beating around the bush.

  • Trump as usual chose to respond to questions by mostly focusing on his opponent’s weakness and how the policies she had directly or indirectly helped enact were a failure. His own answers were vague as always – he spoke of good plans and said he would “knock the hell out of ISIS” but gave little detail.Some said this in itself was enough to declare Hillary’s performance a victory.
  • Some said the bar on Trump was at the lowest – he just had to keep himself from imploding and he did so successfully after a 20-minute struggle.
  • Others praised Hillary’s poise and calmness despite Trump getting as aggressive as possible.
  • Tim Stanley, in The Telegraph pointed out the do-or-die situation Trump was in and he managed to scrape through only due to the low standards of the 2016 election.
  • David Millward said Trump’s eye for detail and coherence on policy compared to last time scored a point over Hillary’s complacency.

Most of the early polls place Hillary at an advantage by different margins – even among the undecided voters.

How different was the debate environment this time?

The town hall format was adopted for this debate and this allowed a section of undecided voters got to ask the questions directly to the candidates as they shared the stage with Hillary and Trump.

  • The moderators asked follow-up questions but the chief topics were raised by this select audience.
  • Gallup organization had selected this audience and the people were from the St Louis area. Each had prepared their questions which were viewed only by the moderators on Sunday Morning.
  • There were two moderators this time – Anderson Cooper from CNN and Martha Raddatz from ABC News. Trump was openly unhappy with their style but social media viewed them – especially Cooper – in a positive light.

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Tags | 2nd Presidential debate debate Donald Trump Hillary Hillary Clinton Presidential debate Trump