Trump v. Clinton, Round One
The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is now -- mercifully -- behind us. We are firmly in the camp that trying to divine long term trends out of such affairs is dangerous. Remember the first presidential debate in 2012? Mitt Romney was proclaimed the winner, and sure to have turned the race in the GOP's direction.
On balance, Clinton's hours of preparation served her well. Trump needs to be more and better prepared next time.
What this debate and the ones upcoming can do is excite the party base, especially if party voters believe their candidate had a particularly good night. Money can be raised and volunteer activity can intensify. Often, however, the polling bump registered for a “winning” candidate disappears within a week or 10 days. Then the race is pretty much back to where it was.
Heading into the debate, the race was getting very competitive. New polls released over the weekend and on Monday were generally good for Trump as he tries to catch up to Clinton, whose big post-convention lead has virtually evaporated. Several polls of Colorado now show the Centennial State to be close to tied, and Trump got some of his best polls in Pennsylvania the last couple of days, although Clinton was generally still leading by a couple of points. National polling averages point to a Clinton lead of just about two or three points, if that. Clinton’s floodgates are creaking. This debate might not ultimately make much difference, but if it re-energizes Democrats after weeks of sagging enthusiasm, that will be a victory for her campaign. If it does not, she might be in quite a bit of trouble.
Our task over the next couple of weeks, then, is to watch what the polls -- not the pundits -- have to say about the race. It's important to remember that Trump and Clinton are speaking to two entirely different audiences. His is looking for change in a big way. Her's is looking to maintain the status quo.
And if the polling trend over the last month or so continues, change is gaining ground -- fast.