Team Trump: Debate Won’t Move Needle In Race For White House

Donald Trump aides and supporters on Tuesday defended his debate performance, arguing the GOP presidential nominee made a damaging case against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the first half-hour while beating expectations.

The behind-the-scenes takes from Trump backers and Republican lawmakers suggested many in the GOP do not believe their candidate scored much of a victory at Monday night’s encounter at Hofstra University.

Instead, they suggested the debate may not have moved the needle much in the presidential race, despite all the hype around it — and that Trump scored important points early in battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio with his emphasis on the downside of free trade deals.

A Trump aide and two strategists who back the GOP nominee all independently highlighted the exchange on trade.

“I’m not as bearish as a lot of other people, and the reason is that the candidates were being graded differently,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who supports Trump but is not affiliated with the campaign. “He had to be plausible, and I think he was. He certainly didn’t disqualify himself.”

But O’Connell also acknowledged that, after a strong opening, Trump’s performance became more problematic as the night wore on, particularly in terms of a tendency to go down “rabbit-holes” that contained little of interest to the average voter. 

O’Connell suggested that the nominee had not always found a way to effectively parry Clinton attacks that could have been anticipated in advance of the clash.

“The ‘birtherism’ and the taxes, in particular,” were shaky moments for Trump, O’Connell said. “He has to be a little bit more in control and not fall into her traps. In those instances, he did.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Temperament Question Dominates Clinton-Trump Debate

From the beginning of the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump has faced a nagging question: Does he have the right temperament to be commander-in-chief?

He's brash, he's entertaining, he's thin-skinned – none of which disqualify him, in the eyes of many voters, from sitting in the big chair and making the big decisions. But on Monday night, the Republican presidential nominee faced the toughest test yet in his highly anticipated first debate against Democrat Hillary Clinton: Could he go toe-to-toe against an experienced political debater and come across as a plausible president?

The bar was low, and Trump began the debate strongly. The billionaire scored points against Clinton on the economy, jobs, and trade. "We're losing our good jobs," Trump said, reinforcing a theme that has propelled him to a commanding lead among non-college-educated white men – and a virtual tie in the overall race.

Overnight polls showed Clinton as the "winner" of the debate, but post-debate polls can be fleeting and don't predict the ultimate outcome of a presidential race.

"It was a fiery debate that won't move a lot of votes," says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "So all eyes will be focused on the second debate. Remember, voters are grading the candidates differently. Trump has the momentum in the polls, and therefore he just has to be plausible in the Oval Office. Which he was."

Still, he acknowledges that Clinton scored points, noting how she put Trump on the defensive about his refusal to release his tax returns and on "birtherism" – Trump's longtime questioning of whether President Obama was born in the United States, which he only recently said was a settled issue.

"The good news for Trump is that he went toe-to-toe with Secretary Clinton on the debate stage, which elevated his legitimacy as a candidate – something especially crucial when you are the challenger party candidate," Mr. O'Connell said. "As we move on to the second debate, look for both candidates to tweak their tactics – particularly Trump."

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Presidential Debate 2016: US Media On Who Won Clinton-Trump Clash

The US media have given their verdict on who won the first debate - with most awarding victory to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

But columnists also noted that Republican Mr Trump had the ability to "adapt after failure" and said there was a risk Mrs Clinton could become "cocky" after her assured performance.

The Hill

Republican and Democrat-supporting pundits consulted by the Washington politics website mostly said Mrs Clinton won, but in a poll its readers called it for Mr Trump.

Hillary "looked confident, calm and composed, while Trump appeared frantic, nervous and distracted", said former Republican congressman John LeBoutillier.

But former Republican campaign aide Ford O'Connell declared a draw, saying going "toe-to-toe" with Mrs Clinton on the debate stage "elevated Trump's legitimacy as a candidate".

Read more at BBC News

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Pundits React: Clinton Won First Debate

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Draw

Presidential debates rarely turn on policy proficiency; rather, they turn on body language, zingers, personality and stumbles.

This one was fiery from the start, and the fact-checkers will certainly have headaches tomorrow morning. Trump had Clinton staggering for the first 20 minutes on the issues of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and trade. But Clinton was able to right the ship by putting Trump on the defensive about his tax returns and the issue of "birtherism."

Trump failed to capitalize on several opportunities, most prominently Clinton's email scandal. Clinton scored points, but Trump hardly disqualified himself.

The good news for Trump is that he went toe-to-toe with Clinton on the debate stage, which elevated his legitimacy as a candidate — something that's especially crucial when you are the challenger party candidate.

As we move on to the second debate, look for both candidates to tweak their tactics.

Read more at The Hill

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Clinton v. Trump: A Guide To The Biggest Debate In decades

The two presidential nominees taking the debate stage at Hofstra University on Monday night will enter one of the most highly anticipated political slugfests in recent history with vastly different goals.

To accomplish those goals, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may find themselves struggling against their own instincts and personalities as much as each other.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released over the weekend shows more voters expect Clinton to win the debate than Trump, but by a smaller margin than they expected President Obama to defeat Mitt Romney in the first debate of the 2012 race.

“[Clinton’s goal] is easy, but hard for her to do, and that is to look likable and authentic,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. 

“The biggest risk for her is to get too far down in the weeds and look wonkish,” O’Connell said.

Trump may have to resist his natural tendency toward showmanship if he wants to come across as a serious and credible leader, rather than looking like a clown, according to Schroeder.

O’Connell believes Trump is aware of the risks and will be trying not to appear too bombastic while still conveying strength.

“Better than she does, he understands the medium of TV,” he said. “He is a showman who knows how body language comes across. That’s the one thing that could be a killer for her.”

“His goal is he’s got to look plausible,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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Why Trump-Clinton Debate May Be Biggest Since Nixon-Kennedy

At last, the moment has arrived: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton go mano a mano Monday night in their first presidential debate.

Beyond gender, the contrasts between the two could not be more stark. Trump is a celebrity billionaire and novice politician, light on details, strong on bravado. Clinton is a seasoned public servant – a former first lady, United States senator, and secretary of State – and steeped in 10-point plans.

Trump has never gone one-on-one in a political debate before, while Clinton has appeared in 40 debates overall during her political career. So Clinton should “win” on Monday, right? Not necessarily. Voters are clamoring for change, and if Trump can convince enough voters that he’s presidential material, he could build on his momentum. Polls now show the two in a dead heat.

“For a lot of voters, this will be the first real impression of either candidate,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “So there’s a lot riding on this debate.”

Style points will matter more than what’s actually said, says Mr. O’Connell. “There will be a couple of one-liners that everyone will focus on, but so what?” he says. “His goal is very simple: If you can see him in the Oval afterwards, then he’s done his job. He doesn’t have to do better than Clinton, he just has to be plausible.”

Read more from Linda Feldmann at the Christian Science Monitor

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Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Get Set For Epic Presidential Debate

With record-breaking viewership expected Monday night for the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, few moments could have a bigger impact on who becomes the next president. 

The two candidates took diametrically opposite paths to reach the stage at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, and will lay out radically different visions for the country. 

The good news for Trump, Republicans say, is that the expectations for his performance are at about rock bottom. While he's been a more disciplined campaigner in recent weeks, he's struggled to stay on message and answer substantive policy questions. He also has never faced the bright spotlight of a one-on-one debate. His campaign, looking to reinforce his underdog image, claims he's eschewing typical debate preparations.

"He doesn't have to be better than Hillary, but he is going to have to show a command of the subject matter beyond just glitzy sound bites in order to pacify some segments of the electorate," Republican consultant Ford O'Connell said.

Read more from Alex Seitz-Wald and Benjy Sarlin at NBC News

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Thankless Job Of Moderator Puts Lester Holt In The Hot Seat

Presidential debate moderator Lester Holt, a veteran broadcast journalist known for a cautious and dispassionate style, is entering thorny terrain tonight at the center of what is likely to be a rhetorical firestorm between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

“In many ways Holt is not much different than an NFL referee — it’s a thankless task, no one wants to notice you, but if you make a mistake they will pounce on you,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said. “Here is the key: We expect close to 100 million viewers, and for about 40 million it will be their first real impression of either candidate, and depending on your party affiliation, that could be a scary thought. And that’s what should keep Holt sleepless.”

Holt has been a registered Republican since 2003, a fact that only came out after Trump lumped Holt in with other interviewers who are Democrats or seen as left-leaning.

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at the Boston Herald

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'Showman' Trump And 'Wonkish' Clinton Race To Lower Debate Expectations

Recognizing that the debate about the presidential debates on social media could have as much influence on public opinion as the candidates’ words, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking preemptive steps to guide the conversation online.

Days before the first presidential debate between Clinton and Donald Trump, scheduled for Monday night at Hofstra University, the Democratic nominee’s communications staff reportedly detailed a social media strategy for supporters in a conference call Thursday.

“This could be potentially the most important set of debates we’ve seen in the modern era,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

O’Connell said the detailed reporting on Clinton’s strategy may raise expectations for her, as will the general sense that Democrats view Trump as “a know-nothing dodo.” 

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Will Illness, Scandals Together Bring Down Hillary Clinton?

One of Hillary Clinton's favorite riffs is to recount all the investigations she has endured and smile and say "And they haven't got me yet."

That may be about to change. No, the furtive conservative dream to see her in an orange jumpsuit won't come true anytime soon. But her dream is to become president, and the cumulative effect of all these scandals might well now stand in the way.

Last Sunday, Clinton slipped out of a 9-11 event at Ground Zero in New York so abruptly her Secret Service detail could not get her vehicle to the meeting place on time. A jarring video Americans will never forget showed her list to the left, right herself with help from an agent, then collapse before she could get into the van.

Nothing was wrong, her campaign said at first. Then, she was dehydrated. Then, it was allergies. Then, finally, the campaign admitted Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia on the previous Friday. That was four stories in one day, then another a day later when Bill Clinton called it the flu.

The campaign has admitted it could've handled this better, which is like Custer admitting he could've handled Little Big Horn better. Meanwhile, Americans wonder if she is much more ill than she has let on and whether they'll ever get a straight story about it.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at the Washington Examiner

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