Donald Trump did not win Monday night’s presidential debate. In fact, he turned the expectation game upside down. Looking back on his first primary debate, this shouldn’t surprise much. When he took the floor at a Fox GOP event, Trump soon clashed with Megyn Kelly, which turned into a months-long feud full of “bimbo” remarks. Since then, Trump’s ebbed and flowed in his behavior, but all along, his strongest opponent has been the woman who became the first major party nominee, Hillary Clinton. Also at that first primary debate, he insulted Rosie O’Donnell, and last night, he dragged himself down by doing so again.
This was one way that Trump lost “bigly,” which is a play on his own made-up word that sparked Internet delight. Trump’s used the word before in victory speeches, but here, he used it during a tax-rate discussion with Clinton: “I’m going to cut taxes bigly, and you’re going to raise taxes bigly!” (Though there is debate from folks who claim he said he said “big league.”) From there, it was downhill for the Republican nominee, who told CNN things went fantastic, but a CNN/ORC poll showed that 62% of debate watchers considered Clinton the winner with Trump only taking 27%. How did this happen?
Well, Clinton recovered nicely from her pneumonia spell. She was poised and on-point all evening, while appearing well-rested and well-rehearsed. In contrast, Trump visibly restrained himself at first, which backfired. For the first 20 minutes of the debate, he kept his emotions under control, but the Trumpness burst forth. He reverted to his “braggadocio” self, although he mistakenly said “braggadocious” instead. From there, Trump devolved into a series of half-truths and lies. And finally, he returned to his intense dislike of Rosie O’Donnell … during a presidential debate.
This debate contained an awkward Hillary joke and a sniffling Trump before he said scary things about nukes and lied about Iraq. We hit many policy moments, so let’s consider the following missteps of strategy and behavior.