Donald Trump started off more calm and collected than the most of the performances he gave during the Republican primaries. Hillary Clinton was… Hillary Clinton — political talking points straight from the Washington political class delivered by an animatronic robot.
On trade, foreign policy and crime, Clinton might have been more knowledgeable, but Trump came across as more sympathetic to the concerns of everyday people. Where Trump might have looked aloof, Clinton looked smug. Where he seemed brash, she was condescending.
Trump seemed to say from the get-go, “I’m not like you,” to a Washington creature of “30 years,” a refrain heard from the Republican nominee multiple times.
I’m watching the debate analysis and critiques now. Many are giving Hillary the edge. I don’t know about that. I’ve been very clear that I’m not a Trump fan. I’m also not a Hillary fan. I’m supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson in this election.
But I think Trump came out of Monday night as a more sincere — if not serious — candidate. That doesn’t mean he’s more electable, only that he might still be more attractive in an election full of voters already in revolt. Democrats saw Bernie Sanders attempt a coup d’état of the political establishment this year. The Republicans saw the same with Donald Trump, who just happened to become their nominee.
Trump’s relative steadiness early in the night rapidly deteriorated in the debate’s second half, in which he became more rambling as Clinton’s grin became wider. She knew he looked like bumbling fool.
That’s also what most pundits are saying right now.
But will that be what the average voter takes away from this debate? In an election where Americans seem to yearn for something that is better and beyond politics as usual, did the always unconventional Donald Trump throw it all away tonight by doing exactly what has worked for him so far?
Hillary Clinton seemed like a conventional politician in the first presidential debate. Donald Trump did not. That might not be enough to swing this election Trump’s way. But it has defined so much of this election to date.