By millionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump’s standards, the second debate was a success. Hillary Clinton was cagey and tense, leaving him free to blather on incoherently and bicker with the moderators when they told him to stop. Her supporters are left to wonder why she’s such a cautious closer. His are left to drown themselves in the joy of bullshit—and hope that it buries a brutal news cycle for their man.
He said she was the devil, she said his campaign was exploding. Sadly, neither is the case. "They ended with the handshake that they had skipped at the opening," writes Politico’s Shane Goldmacher, "and their teams headed off to the spin room to bludgeon one another anew."
Trump avoided annihilation, writes the New York Times’ Alan Rappeport, despite admitting paying no taxes.
Donald J. Trump’s campaign appeared to be crumbling as he entered the second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, with Republicans withdrawing support for his candidacy after the disclosure of a vulgar recording that showed him bragging about sexual assault. Facing a barrage of tough questions, the Republican nominee managed to scrape through, evading questions, fabricating answers and attacking his opponent in deeply personal terms.
While expectations for Mr. Trump were low, many commentators and critics thought that he exceeded them and allayed concerns among supporters that his candidacy was finished.
The Atlantic’s Ron Fournier, though, believes Trump knows he’s lost the election and is simply trying to inflict as much damage on possible before he moves on to his next wheeze.
"He’s now in full carnival-barking, network-launching, party-nuking mode — a scowling, pouting menace who threatened during a nationally televised debate to throw Hillary Clinton in jail and called her husband the most sexually abusive man in political history.”
Laura Ingraham, conservative pundit and author, thinks the exact opposite: “All the Republicans who backed away from @realDonaldTrump look really really stupid right now.”
At CNN, Sally Kohn writes that it was a "depressing spectacle" that shows how ill-equipped Trump’s enemies and the media alike are to deal with him–an opinion largely shared up by her fellow opinion-slingers at the network.
I’m depressed that Donald Trump could be caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and try to laugh it all off in a debate as "locker room talk." But what were the debate moderators supposed to do Sunday night? Spend more than a few minutes conveying America’s utter disgust at this latest example of Trump’s pattern of misogyny? Nah, a few minutes is enough I guess. So on to policy, right?
He went "full Breitbart," writes Slate’s Jim Newell, focusing on his introduction of conspiracy theories and willingness to be the "comment section."
The first audience polls after the debate suggest Clinton’s caution hurt him more than her.
CNN’s instapoll again showed Clinton pulling off an easy debate victory, 57 percent to 34 percent. YouGov’s survey had it closer and more representative of the national horserace figures. Eerily representative, really. Forty-seven percent said Clinton won. And Trump’s number? It was exactly the figure Fallon said he was stuck on in the national horserace: 42 percent.
Which made it all the odder that so many pundits, beyond the figures paid by Trump to say nice things about him in spin rooms, would instantly conclude that Trump had scored an upset to reset the race. What were Trump’s most memorable sound bites, and to whom were these supposed to appeal?
Website clicker polls gave it to Trump, obviously.
USA Today found that both candidates were iffy with facts last night, but Trump’s lies were worse and more numerous.
In a sometimes nasty second presidential debate, there were again several calls by the candidates for fact-checkers to referee competing statements, which we are happy to oblige. But even when Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton weren’t calling out each other on the facts, we found many of their uncontested claims to be misleading or false.
Conservatives generally gave him high ratings, albeit grudgingly for some…
He improved, exceeded expectations, decisively won several exchanges. She could have landed a death blow tonight and did not. #debate
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 10, 2016
I may not care for Trump, but he beat Hillary tonight fair and square even with Martha Raddatz trying to defeat him.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) October 10, 2016
… though the NeverTrump brigade scoffed at his Tasmanial Devil act: “Republicans who took heart at his antic, boob-bait performance are grasping at a thin, crazy reed that the coming news cycles will snap," wrote GOP strategist and alt-right mocker Rick Wilson.
Then there was this: