Sep 22, 2016 (San Diego) Scoring this debate is hard. First off, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scored points and both dominated during different areas of the debate. Trump dominated the discussion on trade. This is about the first 20 to 30 minutes of the debate. While not surprisingly Secretary Clinton dominated the national security section of the debate. In essence, we had the first part dominated by Trump, while the last section dominated by Clinton.
There were two major strategic mistakes made by Trump, that might cost him with voters. They had to do with three areas: Taxes, and who pays them, including releasing his taxes, Clinton accused him at one point that he did not want to release his taxes because it would reveal that he has paid no taxes. In the middle of that Trump said that he was “smart.” This disdain for paying taxes, any taxes, because the government squanders the money they get from taxes should be noticeable. This is perhaps why those have not been released. This was a question raised by Clinton as well.
The second strategic mistake was two fold. The first was when Clinton accused him of settling with the Department of Justice for not renting to minority renters. Yes, businesses settle these kinds of lawsuits without admitting fault, but they do so when they will lose in court. In this sense he admitted to engaging in discriminatory practices early in his career. The second was far more serious. When asked about the racial tensions in the country he did not quite go into community relations, or any of that. He immediately brought stop and frisk. This is a policy that a judge found to be unconstitutional, and violating the fourth amendment. He stuck by his guns, and that will not go well with minority voters. He also stuck to the idea that African Americans and Hispanics live in hell. His idea that minorities are all living in squalor, poverty and in the midst of violence will not earn him voters, at lest we do not think so.
There was a moment he did well. That is when the conversation went to trade. He spoke with force about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has become short hand for all trade agreements. He referenced Ford Motor Company moving the assembly of small vehicles to Mexico and how that trade policy has hurt American cities. He also mentioned Carrier air conditioning units. He did mention that Mexico has an advantage (so does Canada in that sense) since Mexico charges a value added tax (VAT) on all goods and services imported from the United States. For the record, the VAT does not apply to an essential basket of goods such as tortillas and medicines. This means there is a tax, one that is not charged in the United States. Trump hinted at adding such a tax, tariffs if you will, to all imported goods.
He made a strong push for voters in the rust belt he also stated that this recovery was “the worst revival since the Great Depression.” He also stated that when the interest rate is raided by the Fed it will reveal the weakness of the economy. He said that “we are in a bubble.”
Trump also did well when he said she was just a politician, and that like all politicians she was all talk and no action. The economic policies he proposed were preceded by statements that the United States had become a third world country. He said that we needed to bring down corporate tax rates from the 32 percent to 15 percent, which would create jobs. Experts (and Clinton) have called this trickle down. She called it tonight “trumped up, trickle down.” Though there was one issue that Trump raised which is the case. There are over 5 trillion of US dollars floating in foreign accounts and companies still refuse to bring them back, The causes are not that simple as he spoke off though. Nor are all these funds corporate only.
She also was accused of flip flopping on the Transpacific Partnership, which she did. But as time moved on, his lack of preparation was obvious.
Now to Clinton. The first part of the debate she did not dominate. Trade was and remains her weakest side. She scored points more than a few times, and using real people experience was a way to connect to her audience. Both her grandchild and her father were good examples. She called Trump on the way he treated small business owners, who she said he stiffed, in fact, she agreed that Trump believes if you help the very wealthy it will grow the economy, but in the process he went bankrupt 6 times and did not pay small business owners more than a few times. Trump defended that by explaining he took advantages of the laws people like Clinton wrote, but taking away from middle class people was a blow that landed, and landed well.
When the conversation turned to foreign affairs Trump was completely out of his element. He is critical of the agreements, including the Iran deal, but has no alternative. Clinton not only reassured foreign leaders that she will work with them, but reminded the audience that American elections are followed very closely abroad.
On women, she stood for Alicia Machado, who is a US citizen. Clinton called Trump on the treatment of Machado, who Trump called Miss Piggy and Housekeeping. Machado became the symbol for all the things Trump has said about women.
Trump also tended to agree with her in her wheelhouse. This included items such as first strike and nuclear policy. They included cyber policy, and Clinton landed a left hook when she reminded him that he told the Russians to spy on the United States. Though when he argued that it was President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton that left the hole open for ISIS in Iraq, Trump forgets that the Status of Forces agreement between the United States and the Maliki Administration was negotiated by the Bush 43 administration.
When the issue of race came about Trump went all Nixon with law and order. Clinton spoke about removing private prisons from the justice system, as well as community policing, and implied bias. She did not say this was exclusive to the police, but all of us. That said, she pledged to get the help police departments need to train their officer.
Overall Clinton did win the debate.
Edited to reflect that George W Bush was the 43rd President of the United Ststes and not 44rd.