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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Debate takeaways: Hillary steps into her stride

    Sam Gross
    Hillary Clinton rallies in Phoenix on March 21.

    In an election cycle that seems to be defined by media hysteria and conjecture, few events have garnered as much overblown coverage as the first presidential debate. Although the extent to which the debates impact voters’ decisions is questionable, a casual viewer might get the impression that daggers have finally entered the forum.

    Too much has been written about the low expectations that Donald Trump’s team had set for him, as if you could lower a bar that is flush with the ground. A similar amount of ink has been spilled documenting the Republican nominee’s general disregard for such basic political components as facts and truth.

    So why do we care? The narrative has already been built around this election. Only the most delusional voters could think that policy plays anything more than a secondary role—this is a referendum on personality, on temperament, on feeling.

    After all, if voters decided who to vote for based on facts and perceived knowledge, this election would be over. No, in 2016, we parlay in feelings.

    Well, what will voters feel after this debate? This is a clear victory for Hillary Clinton by every possible metric, something that almost every major news source has reported with a certain amount of glee.

    RELATED: Clinton and Trump dominate Arizona primary election

    But how could this be a surprise? Trump’s team has run its voice hoarse yelling about how the New York billionaire did not prepare for the debate, which has been proven many times over by his performance. Meanwhile, his opponent served as lawyer, legislator, diplomat-in-chief and, most onerously, as someone who had to put up with Al Gore for eight years.

    It is difficult to believe that any undecided or on-the-fence voters will be swayed by this debate. At the very least, this is a moment of validation for Democrats who have been frustrated by the rather uninspiring nature of their candidate.

    This has always been a somewhat unfair charge, cruelly amplified by the superhuman charisma of Secretary Clinton’s husband.

    Take a moment to view the Bill Clinton’s “debate moment” against then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992, a perfect encapsulation of the charm and pathos the Big Dog could summon with seemingly no effort.

    The couple is truly a study in contrasts. For all her emphasis on family early on in the debate and a few impassioned rebukes aimed at her opponent, the former senator did not put a lot of effort into capturing the Bill Clinton magic.

    What voters got instead was a well-prepared, well-informed, totally unflappable candidate. We must remember that this is the man who out-blustered Chris Christie, out-crazied Ted Cruz and brought Jeb Bush to the edge of tears on a near daily basis.

    Many have complained that the presidential election has been all spectacle and no substance, but there has not been a lot of indication that voters want otherwise. If Donald J. Trump, the tangerine personification of deliberate ignorance, can make it to the presidential debate stage, a good part of the electorate has long since stopped caring about issues or policy.

    RELATED: Sen. Jeff Flake’s refusal to endorse Trump proves he isn’t a literal flake

    Secretary Clinton has suffered because she is often judged in the media through the same lens as Trump. She is a flat, milquetoast speaker and does not have the same proclivity for grabbing headlines as her opponent.

    Yet, despite what you may think of her, she has devoted considerable time and effort into crafting actual ink-and-paper policy, into giving a cogent preview of what another Clinton administration might look like.

    This serious-minded wonkiness has worked against her, or more likely, does not matter in many voters’ minds.

    However, in this brief and perhaps fleeting moment, it paid off. If there are still undecided voters out there who are at least pretending to try to reach a reason-based decision, this should be something of a wake-up call. This debate, though by no means definitive, is an illustration—in the broadest possible strokes—of the professionalism of one candidate and the putridness of the other.

    Follow Raad Zaghloul on Twitter

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