Going into last night's debate Trump's candidacy had all but been declared officially dead by the mainstream media as well as many politicians in his own party. But, with 5 little words, "because you'd be in jail", Trump managed to shift the media cycle to the debate performance and away from his "lewd comments" made 11 years ago.
Trump came into the debate with nothing to lose and, as such, was aggressive throughout the night with numerous sarcastic interruptions of Hillary and the moderators. You could say that the "let Trump be Trump" strategy was back in full force and it was effective. As The Hill pointed out, the prime exchange that drew the most reaction from viewers came when Trump promised to seek a special prosecutor, if he were elected, to probe Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State.
Clinton responded to that comment by calling into question Trump's temperament saying it's "awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country."
Unfortunately for Hillary, that turned out to be a huge mistake because it teed up Trump's “because you’d be in jail” retort which is the line that most people will be talking about today.
Going into the debate, numerous Republican lawmakers had called for Trump to step aside as the party’s nominee after video surfaced of him making "lewd" comments about women. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, even expressed they were "offended” by the video but vowed to stick with Trump. That said, virtually everyone, regardless of political affiliation, expects to see a sharp erosion of support for Trump in the next round of opinion polls.
There had even been rumors that Kellyanne Conway would quit but she sought to squash that idea as she made the rounds in the spin room after the debate last night. Asked whether she was staying with the campaign, a smiling Conway said, “Yes. I’m here.”
Not surprisingly, the Trump video dominated the early stages of the debate with Anderson Cooper distorting Trump's "lewd" comments as evidence that he was admitting to having previously sexually assaulted women.
Trump again expressed regret for his remarks and then pivoted to Bill Clinton's alleged rape of multiple women, which were in attendance at the debate hall, saying “there has never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation who has been so abusive to women” and contending that Hillary Clinton “attacked those same women.”
Meanwhile, the "independent" moderators decided to debate Trump themselves as evidenced by this exchange between Martha Raddatz and Trump on Syria.
And, as usual, the moderators took every opportunity possible to interrupt Trump yet "shockingly" failed to intervene or press Hillary on her email scandal.
Even Trump took the opportunity to point out the bias during the debate.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, while Trump did seem more prepared for this debate than the last one, Clinton was still more effective at scoring points with voters on policy initiatives.
Mrs. Clinton still was the greater master of policy detail, and she delivered her own critique of the so-called Obamacare health law and what she would do to fix the crown jewel of her party’s domestic policy achievements in recent years. She continued to hammer Mr. Trump on disparaging comments he’s made over time about immigrants, Muslims and, especially, women.
She delivered a sharp critique, for example, of Mr. Trump’s proposal, made earlier this year, to ban all Muslims from entering the country.
“How do you do that?” she asked. “We are a country founded on religious freedom and liberty. How do we do what he has advocated without causing great distress within our own county?”
But the overall voter impact from the debate was best summarized by the following tweet from a Frank Luntz focus group which showed a substantial shift toward Trump after his strong debate performance.
Focus Group: Who are you willing to vote for?— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) October 10, 2016
• Hillary: 8
• Trump: 9
• Hillary: 4
• Trump: 18
Clearly Trump fought for and won the right to fight for another day as the Republican candidate. Now the only question is when the "un-unendorsements" will begin.