Last night’s final debate offered little that was new or edifying. If you had a favorite candidate before the debate, odds are they still have your support the morning after. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stuck to their scripted lines, and it’s doubtful that the final debate changed any hearts or minds.
Each side claims victory
Not surprisingly, supporters of Clinton and Trump each claimed their candidate won. CNN ran an instant poll that showed Clinton won 52% to 39%, while The Washington Times had Trump the winner by 77% to 17%.
Trump refuses to say he’ll accept outcome
The sound bite of the evening was Trump’s refusal to categorically state that he would accept the results of the election. As moderator Chris Wallace noted, it’s an American tradition for the losing candidate to congratulate the winner and call for national unity just before the loser fades into the background of history. Trump supporters noted that in the 2000 election Al Gore and the Democratic Party contested the outcome for nearly a month. Democrats countered that in the case of Florida the outcome was truly in doubt and the two situations are not compatible.
There was more attempt at substance in the final debate. Mr. Trump was more subdued and focused on issues than in previous debates while Mrs. Clinton displayed her knowledge of the issues and highlighted her long experience in politics.
When the candidates were asked about immigration, Trump appeared to slightly moderate his stand on deportation by saying that once the “bad hombres” are deported then “at a later date, we will make a determination as to the rest.” Clinton ran into some trouble when Wallace asked her about a comment that she made in one of the WikiLeaks emails when she called for a “hemispheric common market” and open trade and borders.”
Clinton’s response that “I was talking about energy,” seemed unconvincing and she quickly pivoted from the issue of what she had said in the leaked email about favoring open borders to blaming the leaked emails on Putin and, by extension, Donald Trump. Trump, instead of focusing on the larger question of what Clinton said in the emails, hacked or not, got sucked into an argument about Putin that ended up sounding like a disagreement from grade school:
Clinton: Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States. Trump: No puppet. No puppet. Clinton: And it's pretty clear... Trump: You're the puppet! Clinton: It's pretty clear you won't admit... Trump: No, you're the puppet.
It is doubtful that last night’s debate changed any voter’s minds, which for Mr. Trump is bad news. The consensus is that Trump is trailing Mrs. Clinton by 5 to 7 points in the national polls. Trump also appears to be losing support in several key battleground states which hold the key to the Electoral College vote and the election.