Regardless of the morning headlines, Donald Trump won the debate. Why? Hillary Clinton supporters, including most of the media, were betting on Trump self-destructing in the face of personal barbs thrown at him from Lester Holt and Clinton.
Trump, however, didn’t take any of the hooks — at least, none of the important ones. Even when Holt pressed the issues, “Let me interrupt just a moment,” Trump just talked over the “moderator” until he shut up. As a seasoned TV performer, Trump knows that those debating have leverage over the moderator, especially one who hardly conceals his political preferences.
Trump also successfully peppered Clinton with sly, and very audible, interruptions, which threw off the rhythm of Clinton’s most robotic moments.
Here’s the only Trump fumble of the debate:
HOLT: Why is your judgment — why is your judgment any different than Mrs. Clinton’s judgment?
TRUMP: Well, I have much better judgment than she does. There’s no question about that. I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?
That moment reminded me of the Trump who won the primaries, not the Trump who will very likely win the coming election.
But back to barbs, which were predictable and, probably, both rehearsed and coordinated between the Clinton campaign and NBC News. Evidence of coordination can be found throughout the debate, but the most telling evidence came when Clinton ordered Holt to shut Trump up on the subject of NATO and the Middle East:
CLINTON: Lester, we’ve covered…
TRUMP: No, wait a minute.