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U.S. presidential debate 2016: Analysis of the third Clinton-Trump showdown

Macleans.ca’s writers are back for the third presidential debate, as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in Las Vegas


 

Cue all the gambling metaphors. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump shared the stage in Las Vegas, where they debated each other for the third and final time. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas hosting the war of words, and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace moderated the two nominees.

Check out our Skittles Meter that tracks each candidates’ lies in real time. Our writers once again offered key context and analysis. Catch yourself up on our live coverage of the first debate and the second debate, as well as the rest of our campaign reporting.

Live blog highlights
Expect Trump to say he will honour the results of the election in the next week or so
At the state’s Republican HQ in Arizona: cynicism and disdain for refugees
Trump’s campaign sent 27 press releases during the debate

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:48 pm

Don’t expect this ‘suspense’ to last

From Aaron Hutchins:

When was the last time a presidential candidate didn’t pledge to honour the results of the election? Well, Trump just did. Crazy?

Remember during the Republican primaries, when all the candidates were supposed to make a pledge that they’d support whoever won the nomination, Trump was the lone holdout. He said he’d wait to see who won first. The move helped him stand out from the other candidates; he did eventually relent and take the pledge at a later date, at a much smaller and quieter venue.

Expect Trump to say he will honour the results of the election in the next week or so—if anything not to scare away conservatives fearing his supporters’ idea of a revolution or preventing the peaceful transition of power–but in a debate that has largely been Trump’s move to expand his base, this one line will fire up his base supporters, even if he does quietly back down from his comments today.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:43 pm

Rapid response

From Jonathon Gatehouse

Final tally: The Trump campaign sent out 27 press releases over the course of the 90 minute debate.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:40 pm

Color coordinated

From Aaron Hutchins:

If anyone was keeping track of Clinton’s fashion choices during the three debates, it’s clear her team had put some thought into it. At the first debate, she wore red. At the town hall debate, blue. Today, she wore white. Expect some photos of her standing at all three debates in the days to come.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:38 pm

A rehearsed freestyle pitch to America

From Jonathon Gatehouse:

Chris Wallace suggested that this one-minute “tell America why you should be president,” segment was a surprise. Yet somehow, Clinton’s polished patter sounded very much like something that had been rehearsed and focus grouped. Or maybe she has just actually thought about it.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:31 pm

ISIS, by way of Mexico?

From Jason Markusoff:

Among the Republican base, the anti-immigrant border issue is so intertwined with terrorism—more than I thought. Yesterday, in Tucson, Arizona, I spoke to two women who independently stated that ISIS or Syrians are coming in through the Mexican border—assertions which have zero basis in fact.

Here at the state’s Republican HQ in Arizona, I hear more cynicism and disdain for refugees. Hillary Clinton referenced the four-year-old Syrian boy who appeared bloodied in a press photograph. Paul Gorman, a precinct committeeman in the city, blurted out: “Probably has a bomb strapped to him.”

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:29 pm

Two takeaways from this evening

From Charlie Gillis:

Iran is taking over Iraq, and Chris Wallace shouldn’t moderate any more U.S. presidential debates.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:28 pm

Maybe Trump sees the writing on the wall

From Jason Markusoff:

Trump, on Syria, said it’s going to get so much worse. “Lots of luck, Hillary.”

With that, plus his call for suspense about whether he’d recognize an electoral victory for his rival… maybe he does believe the polls that show him headed for a big loss. There wasn’t any pledge that he’d clean it up easily, like he’s often made.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:26 pm

Crazy like a Fox

From Jaime Weinman:

It’s not saying much, but it seems like Chris Wallace has been the best of the debate moderators so far. It may be partly because both candidates seem to respect him: Trump because he’s from Fox News (probably Trump would prefer it were Breitbart, but at least it’s not CNN) and Clinton because he has managed to maintain a reputation as one of the newsier Fox News personalities. So he’s been able to ask questions that play to both candidates’ vulnerabilities.

With the departure of Roger Ailes and the migration of the hard-right audience to harder-right outlets like Breitbart, this could be the start of Fox News’s post-Trump move toward a different image, as the outlet for respectable Republicanism. They might have to if Trump actually does start that rumoured TV network. The one prediction that can be made: whatever happens after the election, Sean Hannity will claim to believe whatever is fashionable at that moment.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:20 pm

Trump brings the ‘Muscle’

From Jonathon Gatehouse:

This Trump word salad on Mosul, which is apparently pronounced Muscle in Queen’s, is by far his most disjointed of the night. And what’s worse, his riff on losing the element of surprise is a direct lift from his last debate. Clinton’s rejoinder, “Just like we went after Bin Laden, while you were doing Celebrity Apprentice,” is surely the line of the evening.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:17 pm

Don’t expect this ‘suspense’ to last

From Aaron Hutchins:

When was the last time a presidential candidate didn’t pledge to honour the results of the election? Well, Trump just did. Crazy?

Remember during the Republican primaries, when all the candidates were supposed to make a pledge that they’d support whoever won the nomination, Trump was the lone holdout. He said he’d wait to see who won first. The move helped him stand out from the other candidates; he did eventually relent and take the pledge at a later date, at a much smaller and quieter venue.

Expect Trump to say he will honour the results of the election in the next week or so—if anything not to scare away conservatives fearing his supporters’ idea of a revolution or preventing the peaceful transition of power–but in a debate that has largely been Trump’s move to expand his base, this one line will fire up his base supporters, even if he does quietly back down from his comments today.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:12 pm

The biggest spinoff of all-time

From Jaime Weinman:

Fact-check on Hillary Clinton’s claim that Donald Trump also said the Emmys were rigged against him when they didn’t go his way: True.

His line about why he won’t pledge to accept the results of the election—“I’ll keep you in suspense!”—furthers the feeling that he sees this whole campaign as an extension of his TV show, the biggest spinoff of all time.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:07 pm

A word from Trump supporter Arthur Robertson

From Meagan Campbell:

“I think Trump is laying out some good plans. I like the Supreme Court judges he talked about. I’m definitely pro-life, definitely for the Second Amendment. Hillary talks about free college—it all sounds good, but it’s not possible. That is such a phony smile. Trump is much smarter than her. Hillary just rambles. I asked my wife, ‘Do you know what the heck she just said?’ She said no.”

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:06 pm

Trump on women

From Jonathon Gatehouse:

The Trump campaign’s 15th press release of the evening just landed: “Donald J. Trump’s History of Empowering Women.” It has links to nine different newspaper stories about women who are employed, or have been employed, by Trump and say that he is a good boss who cares about advancing women in the workplace.

Oddly, all of the cited articles are from the Washington Post, the paper that has been the chief thorn in Trump’s side this campaign, raising many questions about his charitable foundation. It’s also the paper that broke the 2005 Access Hollywood tape that is the reason he feels obliged to send out such press releases.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:05 pm

Feeding the fact-checkers

From Jaime Weinman:

Trump’s claim that Clinton and Obama incited violence at Trump rallies is based on a video from Republican provocateur James O’Keefe, which showed two Democratic operatives seemingly talking about hiring people to create a violent impression. They withdrew from involvement in the campaign, but claimed the video was misleadingly edited and that the conversation was only hypothetical.

Trump’s attempt to claim that Clinton “caused the violence,” which requires a lot of contortions to believe, may be another case of him choosing the maximally provocative accusation over something smaller and more plausible. There have been instances of violence against Trump supporters, and it might be effective for him to mention those and claim that the media have been focusing too much on his potentially violent rhetoric and not enough on those incidents. Claiming that Hillary Clinton is responsible, on the other hand, seems like an invitation to the dreaded fact-checkers rather than an attempt to make his case.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:02 pm

Lies, lies, lies

From Charlie Gillis:

Wallace has mauled the sexual assault question, but here it is, and Trump’s comportment is more meaningful than his answer (which is customarily improbable). His determination to pivot onto the Chicago violence helped him keep his cool, which points to some good coaching—a kind of rhetorical paper bag for him to blow into, and bring down his heartrate. The gambit of claiming the women’s stories have been debunked is something Trump started today. It is false, of course—not one of the women has recanted, or been refuted. But Trump got out of it relatively unscathed.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 201610:01 pm

Don’t believe the experts

From Jason Markusoff:

That’s an intriguing line from Clinton: “America is great because America is good”—a call to American decency, and a note of optimism both about the present and future, in contrast to Trump’s dark talk of the present day and promises for a future of all your dreams coming true.

In Pennsylvania last week, he urged the crowd not to believe any reports that their economy is on the rebound and they’re doing well. “You’re not doing well.”

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:56 pm

Cheers for red meat

From Jason Markusoff:

At the Arizona Republican Party HQ in Phoenix, they’re nibbling on baby carrots, pizza, pretzels and cookies—and loving the red meat Trump has served. It’s a largely male crowd, and overwhelmingly white in this 40 per cent Hispanic city.They laugh when he interjects: “It’s my turn.” They laugh when he I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I says “You’re the puppet.” Big applause when he accuses her of “just another lie.”

A lot of “Shut up!” cries from the crowd when Clinton brings up Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe whose body image Trump criticized (and continues to criticize).

They are angry. They are skeptical of the polls and media (though they’ve all been polite to me).

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:55 pm

Name dropper

From Aaron Hutchins:

Donald Trump name-drops the first states of the debate: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida. He picks those three for good reason. Provided Trump wins Arizona, North Carolina and Nevada—where Trump is trailing in recent polls, though not by a wide margin—winning Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania would be enough to put him over the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

So what are his chances there? The two are locked in a virtual tie in Ohio; Clinton leads by four points in Florida; and in Pennsylvania (with its critical 20 electoral votes) Trump trails by what could be an insurmountable six points. Polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com gives Trump about a 10 per cent chance of winning Pennsylvania. Pretty bad odds.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:44 pm

Kaboom

From Jonathon Gatehouse:

Trump’s complaints that Russia has many more nukes than the U.S. these days, is a nod (knowingly or not) to a big issue in the 1960 election—the Missile Gap. John. F. Kennedy campaigned hard on the notion that President Dwight Eisenhower and the Republicans had let the U.S.S.R pull far ahead in the Cold War, building up a numeric nuclear advantage. The thing is, that J.F.K. found out he was totally wrong when he became president in Jan. 1961. For the record, the world’s 15,000 nuclear warheads—90 per cent of them owned by the U.S. and Russia—are more than enough to render the entire planet uninhabitable. In 2012, a graphic designer came up with some nice web illustrations about just how many nukes it would take to destroy all of Earth’s landmasses. Right around 15,000 as it turns out.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:38 pm

Will Clinton play her own trump card?

From Charlie Gillis:

Thirty minutes in, and Clinton has finally gotten under Trump’s skin. But then, it looked like moderator Chris Wallace is getting under her skin with the Wikileaks questions. This increases the likelihood that Clinton will bring up the women accusing Trump of sexual assault if she thinks Wallace is taking too long. Trump has managed to keep Mr. Hyde mostly on the leash to this point, but you have a sense it won’t last.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:36 pm

Democrats on immigration: now and then

From Jaime Weinman:

Immigration, legal and illegal, is a subject that Trump hasn’t talked about much in these debates, and he seems visibly frustrated when Chris Wallace interrupts him on the subject and turns it back over to Clinton: he knows it’s his most popular issue.

In some ways, it’s a subject that the Democrats are more vulnerable on than they seem, because this is not an issue that breaks down on conventional left/right lines. In his 1995 State of the Union address, Bill Clinton famously sounded more like Trump in 2016 than like Hillary Clinton, talking about how disturbing it is that “illegal aliens” take American jobs. Today Hillary Clinton prefers “undocumented” (a compromise term, “unauthorized,” is becoming more popular lately) and definitely won’t use the kind of language Bill was using in 1995. But dislike of unfettered immigration is definitely not limited to the right; Bernie Sanders dismissed “open borders” last year as a “Koch Brothers proposal.” If Trump had been able to talk more about the issue, he might have done Clinton some damage, not enough for him to win the election, but at least to revive those splits within the Democratic coalition.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:34 pm

… Or maybe don’t worry about it

From Charlie Gillis:

A side note on the Wall that I came across while reporting a Trump story: A Quinnipiac University poll released in June found that fewer than a quarter of U.S. respondents said they believe that Trump, if he wins, will be able to build his vaunted wall and have Mexico pay for it. Fully, 39 per cent said he will try and fail and 29 per cent said he won’t even try.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:33 pm

… Or maybe don’t worry about it

From Charlie Gillis:

A side note on the Wall that I came across while reporting a Trump story: A Quinnipiac University poll released in June found that fewer than a quarter of U.S. respondents said they believe that Trump, if he wins, will be able to build his vaunted wall and have Mexico pay for it. Fully, 39 per cent said he will try and fail and 29 per cent said he won’t even try.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:31 pm

Another brick in the Wall

From Charlie Gillis:

The most appalling thing about Trump’s proposed border wall is that it’s actually feasible—albeit at enormous cost to both countries. Trump claims he can scare Mexico into paying for it: if it refuses, he says, he will pass changes to security law that would block the flow of remittance money from Mexicans working in the U.S. That would cost the Mexican economy some portion of the estimated $24 billion annually. Will Mexico bow to that threat? Its current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, says no way. But it presumably depends on how much the wall costs to build, and how desperate Mexico becomes. Some estimates peg the cost as high as $25 billion, others as low as $5.1 billion.

Trump claims he needs only to cover about 1,000 miles of border unprotected by natural barriers like rivers and canyons, so the cost would come in between $5 and $10 billion. Maybe, but the precast concrete monstrosity he’s described would stand between 35 and 50 feet (to put that in perspective, the Berlin Wall, whose concrete portion ran 66 miles, stood a little under 12 feet). Construction of the existing pedestrian fences in place cost an average $3.9 million. So maybe Trump can get his wall built for $5 billion, but we’re guessing it would require a whole lot of illegal migrant labour. So the longer this imagined wall gets, the more expensive it will become. And if it achieves its desired effect, the remittance money flowing back to Mexico would start drying up. What, again, is Mexico’s incentive to keep paying for it?

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:29 pm

Trump’s PR machine heats up

From Jonathon Gatehouse:

One of the few things that have evolved about Trump’s campaign over the past year is his communication game. In the early months, there wasn’t much of one, beyond the candidate’s late-night Twitter storms. Now, there is at least a semblance of a PR shop at Trump Tower in New York City. Over the first 25 minutes of tonight’s debate they have already blasted the media with six different press releases (all obviously pre-written.) “Clinton’s Supreme Court Hypocrisy” reads the first subject line. Followed by “Donald J. Trump Will Appoint Constitutional Conservative To The Supreme Court,” then “Clinton On Wrong Side Of Gun Control Debate.” His camp is also trumpeting his “Comprehensive Immigration Plan.” Spoiler: It involves building a border wall and not letting anyone in.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:25 pm

A hard stance on the Supreme Court

From Jason Markusoff:

Thank Bernie Sanders for the firmly liberal stance Hillary Clinton is taking on Supreme court choices. This is more progressive than most Democratic presidential candidates, including Obama. In 2008, here’s what Obama said about how he would choose top court nominees:

What I do want is a judge who is sympathetic enough to those who are on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless, those who can’t have access to political power and as a consequence can’t protect themselves from being—from being dealt with sometimes unfairly, that the courts become a refuge for justice.

Contrast that to Clinton’s answer in the second debate, which burrowed deeper into specific policy goals. She wants judges committed to upholding abortion rules, gay marriage, and overturning the Citizens United ruling that shredded corporate donation laws—the Numero Uno of Bernie issues.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:23 pm

Hillary lookin’ for that landslide?

From Jaime Weinman:

There hasn’t been much of interest so far, disappointing everyone who was hoping for fireworks (but just wait, it’ll come). But you can possibly draw some connection between Hillary Clinton’s second amendment talk and reports that Democrats are hoping to pick up some Republican states and get a landslide. Democrats have been running left on guns in the last few years as their vote share among gun-rights supporters has fallen. (Bernie Sanders famously had to play down his gun-friendliness to have a chance in a Democratic primary.) But now she’s being very emphatic about saying she supports the second amendment to the U.S. constitution, that she believes it creates an individual right to bear arms, that she just wants “common sense” regulations.

That sounds like a shout-out to voters who might be leaning toward her but can’t get over the fear that she might appoint Supreme Court justices who will clear a path toward taking their guns away. Whether or not she can get them—and the age of landslides may be over—it seems like she wants them.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:22 pm

Roe v. Wade and Trump

From Charlie Gillis:

It’s worth remembering that Trump has zig-zagged on this issue, and Wallace should mention that. “I’m very pro-choice,” Trump said in 1999. “I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still — I just believe in choice.”

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:21 pm

The ball’s in their court

From Aaron Hutchins:

With the recent passing of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court has been deadlocked 4-4 in recent rulings. Four of the Supreme Court Justices lean liberal, four lean conservative, and the next president—Clinton or Trump—will pick the person to break that deadlock.

For Republicans skeptical of Trump, this is the one thing that might bring them to vote for the Donald come November. Trump has give a list of 20 potential names—all with conservative leanings, pro-gun, pro-life—one of whom he’d choose to fill the lone vacancy. Not to mention, the current oldest justice is 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If she were to step down in her role in the next four years, and Trump wins the presidency, the conservative side could hold a 6-3 edge in the Supreme Court for years to come. Will that carrot be enough to get so-called “Never Trump” Republicans to tick a box for Trump at the polls?

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:14 pm

Crowd control

From Jason Markusoff:

Clinton: “I support the second amendment.” Phoenix GOP crowd: Ha ha. Liar!

Clinton: I don’t think people should be killing each other. Phoenix

GOP crowd: cross-armed quiet.

Clinton: I want reasonable reforms. Phoenix GOP crowd: “Bulls—”


Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:13 pm

Mr. Lost Vegas

From Jonathon Gatehouse:

Trump’s dignity has been missing in action for many years. But his decision to invite the cast of future Season 27 of Big Brother—a supposed Bill Clinton love child, President Obama’s half-brother, and tanned and ancient lounge lizard Wayne Newton—is yet another low point for U.S. politics. Many have wondered what Trump has in common with the man most (as in vaguely) famous for the song Danke Schoën.

Newton has said nice things about The Donald over the past few months, and even showed up at one of his Vegas rallies this summer. But their closest tie may well be their shared experience with bankruptcy. Newton filed for Chapter 11 protection in 1992, and again found himself in fiscal hot water in 2012 when a bankruptcy judge ordered to sell his Vegas mansion Case de Shenandoah. All turned out well and weird, however, with the singer and his family moving back into their home last fall. It now doubles as a Newton museum and pilgrimage spot for his “Wayniancs.”

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:12 pm

The happy surrogate

From Charlie Gillis:

To listen to Trump’s running mate in the pre-debate interviews was to experience a touch of dislocation, because Mike Pence is hitting his stride the Dr. Jekyll role. He makes sense, sounds rational. Never mind all that crazy stuff my running mate said, he assures; of course he and I will respect the election result. Even his claim Trump is ahead by two points in a new poll sounded believable. So let’s see whether Mr. Hyde plays true to form, and contradicts Pence on the election question.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:05 pm

Reporting live from GOP HQ in Arizona

From Jason Markusoff:

I’m on the live blog tonight from Phoenix, watching the debate at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters. Thought this would be an interesting place to watch the debate. I’ll sprinkle in some reactions and thoughts from the pro-Trump crowd (and maybe there will be some Republicans who aren’t so enthralled with their party nominee, as both the state’s senators are).

Cecilia Marie, a realtor who’s been a Republican since Barack Obama arrived in 2008, said she’s convinced all politicians lie. But she finds Hillary Clinton’s blatant, and Trump, “at least the kind of lies he talks to speak to my heart.”

In the first debate—the only one she saw—she found Trump was a bit soft on Clinton, a bit too Romneyesque for her liking. Clinton had some good comebacks, Marie reckons.
Paul Gorman, an IT worker wearing his Republican state precinct committeeman name badge, backed Trump for the Republican nomination after hearing his speeches and agreeing with everything he said. Gorman hopes he calls her “Crooked Hillary” or a criminal tonight.

Neither one is sure Clinton is actually ahead in the country or may win their state, as the polls suggest. “Arizona is not in play. I don’t care what they say,” Gorman yelled at the Fox News feed, after the anchor said it is. Clinton’s campaign sent Bernie Sanders to Tucson for a rally yesterday and Chelsea Clinton to Arizona State University this afternoon. First Lady Michelle Obama is in Phoenix tomorrow.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20169:02 pm

Checking in with a Trump supporter

From Meagan Campbell:

We’ll be checking in with the Trump supporter who we consulted during the first debate. Arthur Robertson of rural Ohio has cranked up his support since last time. Stay tuned for his comments.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey October 19, 20168:57 pm

Shhhhhh

From Aaron Hutchins:

The Debate Commission officials again remind everyone in attendance that the debate is for the millions watching on TV at home, not solely for those with a seat in the crowd—and they should therefore refrain from cheering, booing or otherwise offering any background noise. That kind of warning didn’t work so well for the first two debates, which really begs the question: Is a live audience really needed at all? (Town-hall debate excluded, of course.)

It might not make for good pre-debate coverage talking about which notable people will and will not be in attendance, but if the goal of the debate a chance for each candidate to offer their vision for America—not pander to the crowd—then there’d be a much better shot of there being some policy substance at the debate.


 

U.S. presidential debate 2016: Analysis of the third Clinton-Trump showdown

  1. Too bad they don’t allow videos in the debates. Trump could show the one in the link. When Trump has said the same things, she called it a racist tirade.
    https://youtu.be/hSOYFHY373w
    Then he could show the excerpts I saw on Fox where she called Willy’s bedmates trailer trash, sluts and pigs.

    • See, there’s your problem…..you watch Fox.

      • That’s the only station where you can listen to anything other than liberal drivel.

  2. Just a couple of things to say to anyone who saw the first election, deja vu all over again, I thought I was looking at the first debate. Hillary ate Trumps lunch, he took hook, line and sinker, between Trumps whining and rambling, someone needed to stick a pacifier in his mouth.

    • Did Hillary ever look presidential tonight, she came to play.

        • All the polls I said was that she won by a narrow margin except for the one that asked “who would you trust?” She lost that one for good reason!!

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