Who will win tonight’s presidential debate?

You know the old shibboleth about those who listened to the Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960 thought Nixon won, but those who watched on TV thought Kennedy won — something about Nixon’s 5 o’clock shadow and sweating brow.

If anyone only listens to tonight’s Clinton-Trump debate, there might be a similar dichotomy. The listener won’t be subjected to Trump’s smirks and wild hand gestures or be exposed to Clinton drooping like a wilted flower.

Let’s just hope debate moderator Lester Holt doesn’t pull a Candy Crowley and start incorrectly correcting either candidate.

I suspect the debate will be scored by viewers and pundits alike on style and performance rather than substance, mores the pity. Neither of them has articulated anything close to a coherent list of policies for how they would behave as chief executive and commander in chief.

Clinton has a memory like a steel sieve and Trump can contradict himself in a single sentence.

Unlike reality TV, this really is unscripted.

Doubtless tonight’s outcome will come down to who makes the biggest blunder. Like Gerald Ford insisting that Poland, Yugoslavia, and Romania were all “independent and autonomous” of the Soviet Union. Like Michael Dukakis’ leaden, stone-faced and rote opposition to the death penalty when asked if he would relent if his own wife were raped and murdered. Like Al Gore’s exasperated sighs. Like Obama’s smirks in the first debate with Mitt Romney.

I doubt we’ll be offered any debate zingers like Ronald Reagan asking, “Ask yourself, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?”

Or like Lloyd Bentsen saying to Dan Quayle, “I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Expect the primacy/recency effect to be heavily skewed to the primacy side of the equation. The debate will be won or lost in the opening minutes by whichever candidate lands the best and most blows. That’s when watchers will mark their mental score cards. By the final minutes, they and we will be too exhausted to pay attention or care.

But there is a distinct possibility with this match that both might end up on the canvas.


Joe Heller cartoon

Joe Heller cartoon




11 comments on “Who will win tonight’s presidential debate?

  1. Vernon Clayson says:

    After Obama’s two terms we expect exact answers and profundity in the candidates??? Imagine if the news media had carved him up in either of the last two elections as they have Trump. Imagine if they had built up tired old John McCain in 2008 like they have Clinton, imagine if they had hinted at questions of Obama’s faith like they did Romney in 2008, imagine our man in Washington, Harry Reid, saying Trump hasn’t paid taxes in ten years. Okay, he has mentioned Trump’s income, says Trump isn’t as wealthy as he claims. Would Harry Reid bet his own fortune that everything in the Clinton’s financial dealings are above board?

  2. nyp says:

    Yes, he would, because they are.

  3. Barbara says:

    NYP are you including the Clinton Crime Foundation as being above board?

  4. nyp says:

    The short answer is yes, because all of the allegations made against it by partisan sources have been looked into and have been found to be without merit.
    The longer answer is that it is really beneath you to snarkily refer to the “Clinton Crime Foundation.” That is just gross. You know, it is legitimate to raise questions about how a large charitable foundation that depends on outside contributions negotiates the issue of having the spouse of the founder be a high government official. But to call an organization that has done incredible good for millions of disadvantaged men, women and children around the world a “crime foundation” is simply deplorable.
    Your partisanship has gotten the best of you.

  5. Steve says:

    Get a sense of humor, nyp.

    Install it and configure it when reading posts.

    Some things are just funny. Like Clinton on Between two Ferns. (Still, it did nothing to improve my opinion of her. But it was funny.)

  6. Vernon Clayson says:

    I guess nyp hasn’t read the articles about how the Clintons profited from their Haitian adventures. That’s just one example.

  7. Steve says:


    That was a great 90 minute ad for Gary Johnson!

  8. Steve says:

    Try try, again! (it was shared as public.)

  9. Bill says:

    This “event” isn’t scored like a high school or college debate and after watching the debate it will be interesting to see if any demographics have moved to one candidate or the other. I rather suspect that most people will see it through the lens of their personal political bias. I watched it and IMHO it they both did all right. Nothing spectacular and nothing particularly new. One debate does not an election make as recent history has taught us. And NYP, at least concede that the Clinton Foundation certainly has the appearance of impropriety and insofar as I know, there has been no formal investigation of the Clinton Foundation.

  10. Athos says:

    I couldn’t watch it. I tried. God bless my wife, she stuck it out. I could no more listen to Shrillery than I can Pinocchio. Lies, lies, and more lies from our “elites” that can’t stand God and Country.
    And that pin head moderator in name only, was clearly cross checking and interrupting Trump while giving CrookHillery free reign.
    These people are so used to getting their way, that they’ve all become clinically delusional, or the thieves of the highest order (say hello to the Clinton Foundation!)

  11. Barbara says:

    NYP – The list of pay to play is well known. Middle East and African countries donating millions and then receiving special access or having rulings issued by the State Department reversed. There is the uranium deal, Erickson’s ties to trading with Iran, and numerous others. All you have to do is google it if you want to know. I can’t think of a more factual title than the Clinton Crime Foundation. If the Justice Department, the Director of the FBI, and Obama (who used a fake name to communicate with Clinton on her private email server that, of course, he only became aware of its existence from news media accounts) weren’t corrupt themselves, the Clintons would be in prison.

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