I think any fair assessment of the details would say Hillary won the debate points. She was better prepared on issues and had her punch lines lined up. Just like when she debated Obama in 2008. And she did score some good punch lines, because NBC brought up issues that are tough on Trump, like the tax returns and the Obama “birther” issue. Hillary’s email problem was barely an issue, and received none of the pushback from Lester Holt that Trump received on other issues like the Iraq War.

But as I mentioned this morning, this was Trump’s chance to show 100 million people he’s not the “Hitler” the media portrays, and that merely being on the stage normalizes him. I think he succeeded in that. He didn’t make any huge gaffes, and didn’t have any blow ups. He hammered the issues of jobs in the midwest — constantly referred to Michigan. To the extent Trump was able to stay on message, the message was one of feeling the pain of people left behind in the economy.

In a sense, the debate set up the choice — the better prepared career politician and symbol of the status quo, versus the less prepared but more emotional outsider representing the change agent. The debate may have rendered that change agent acceptable.

Will be interesting to see if this moves the polling needle at all.


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