Who won the first presidential debate of 2016?

By Nicole Belair, Staff Writer
Last Monday was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s first showdown of the 2016 election season. The debate was hosted at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and the moderator was Lester Holt from NBC Nightly News. The debate was focused around national security, the economy, and job creation. It essentially boiled down to ninety minutes of a felon and a racist bickering, but did either of them really win? Based on numbers alone, two polls from CNN and Gallup show that 62 percent of those surveyed declare Clinton the winner, compared to only 27 percent for Trump. Similarly, NBC demonstrated polling data finding Trump the loser, 52 percent to 21 percent. Both candidates have claimed victory in the debate, but these numbers demonstrate that Clinton pretty much crushed it. But I would declare this race far from over. Clinton’s main objective for this first debate was clearly to make Trump look stupid and inexperienced. He doesn’t have political experience at all, and any exhibition of unpreparedness on Trump’s part definitely helped Clinton. A personal favorite part of the debate was when Clinton was attacking Trump for not disclosing his tax return. “Maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes,” she stated. Trump butted in, “that makes me smart,” as if admitting to the accusation. Even if he did pay taxes, he said “they would be wasted” by the government. “It must be something really important, even terrible, that he’s trying to hide,” Clinton speculated. “It just seems to me that this is something the American people deserve to see.” Trump really did fall for Clinton’s provocation, as she appeared far cooler, more collected, and made (scripted) attacks at Trump and his experience. She brought up his past bankruptcies, allegations of not paying his workers, and more Trump sponsored disasters. However, Clinton’s comebacks weren’t exactly strong either. If I had a dollar for every time Clinton responded to Trump’s rants with simply a chuckle and a “consult the fact checkers,” I would have almost enough of that “small loan of a million dollars” Trump is always talking about. What was really difficult to listen to was the back-and-forth between Trump and moderator Lester Holt, as each one was usually trying to talk over the other. In the segment about national security, Trump emphasized that Stop-and-Frisk was the best way to restore law and order in this country. Holt fired back with, “Your two minutes expired, but I do want to follow up. Stop-and-Frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.” “No,” Trump replied, “you’re wrong.” Wow, good one, Donald! No matter what you may think about Clinton and her ideas, she definitely provided much more detail in regards to her proposed plans and policies. Trump stuck to his usual hyperbolic rhetoric, hinting at ideas for keeping jobs in America and keeping immigrants out. But, he never really got into specifics about how he will do all of these things and how he will “make America great again.” The first presidential debate of 2016 – and the whole election season really – strongly resembles a skit from Saturday Night Live. When Trump and Clinton took the stage at the beginning and shook hands, I found myself laughing uncontrollably, but seriously worrying about the fate of America. It’s still surreal that these are our Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. With all of this in mind, it’s nearly impossible to declare a winner. For voters who want change and who want an outsider to come in and take charge, Trump would be the winner. However, Clinton did appear more confident, more prepared, and more presidential overall. And for that, she should get the win. These debates are extremely important, especially when it comes to undecided voters. It will be interesting to see how the nominees prepare for the next debate, scheduled for Sunday, October 9.
Photo Courtesy: Alex Wong

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