A round-up of the third—and final—US presidential debateby Andrew Stuttaford / October 20, 2016 / Leave a comment
Hillary and Donald didn’t shake hands. And nor did Melania and Bill. Expectations of a mudfight had been whipped up by Team Trump’s decision to bring along a number of guests designed to spook Team Clinton. These included four mothers of people killed by illegal aliens, the former fiancée (from the 1990s) of the US ambassador butchered in Libya, the (allegedly estranged) mother of another of the Benghazi victims, the wholly estranged half-brother of the current president of the United States, and a former TV reporter from Arkansas who has emerged in recent days to assert that she was sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton in the 1980s. Adding to the goodwill in the air, Trump had suggested last weekend that the two candidates should submit to a drug test beforehand. Hillary, he maintained, had been “all pumped up” at the beginning of the previous debate, but had appeared curiously drained by the end of it (“She could barely reach her car”).
But (slightly) less mud flew than anticipated last night and it was The Donald who did not seem quite himself. And this was not just because he came across as somewhat more prepared than usual. Uncharacteristically sotto, he gave an impression of being gently sedated, or at least of having listened to his more sensible advisers, except, of course, when he didn’t. He made the moderator (Fox News’ Chris Wallace, unquestionably the most accomplished performer of the evening) look like an accomplice by thanking him for asking Clinton a tough question. He probably irritated yet more of the female voters he desperately needs—against all the odds—to win over by referring to his opponent as “such a nasty woman.” He won’t have made a lot of new friends with his remark that there were “some bad hombres” among the illegal alien population. Mathematically (“some”) that must, I suppose, be an accurate enough observation, but, in just the latest of countless own goals, Trump managed to phrase it in a way that hinted at a racial animus not only disturbing to Latinos (like just about every minority group a largely lost constituency by now) but to many whites too. On some calculations, Trump will need the support of nearly two-thirds of white voters to win (compared with Romney’s 59 per cent in 2012). Good luck with that.