By Cáitriona Murphy
In the first of a series of articles looking at the US Presidential Election, Cáitriona Murphy takes a look at the first presidential debate
The first of three televised debates between the two US presidential nominees took place at Hofstra University in New York.
The debate consisted of two 15-minute segments for each of these three topics: America’s direction, achieving prosperity and securing America.
The unpredictability of the 2016 election means that there is still a lot at stake for both of these candidates and it is these debates that may be the deciding factors for a lot of registered voters.
Clinton and indeed the mediator on the night Lestor Holt had their work cut out for them as Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times to Clinton’s 17 interruptions but the former Secretary of State demonstrated her political experience and kept her cool.
While Trump attacked Clinton’s look and stamina repeatedly, a well-drilled Clinton managed to attack Trump’s privileged past, his elitist attitude and his economic policies all in her opening comments. “Donald was very fortunate in his life, and that’s all to his benefit. He started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father, and he really believes that the more you help wealthy people, the better off we’ll be,” said Clinton.
Trump stuck to his usual rhetoric emphasising his protectionist policies and reiterating the fact that jobs are leaving the US via the multinational companies who are moving to countries with better tax incentives such as Mexico and China.
In fact, Trump blamed China for a lot of America’s economic problems and said that China is stealing American jobs, devaluing their currency and generally the Chinese are “using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China”.
Trump was indeed grasping at straws for the majority of the debate and as he spent most of his time blaming other countries for America’s problems and launching attacks at Clinton’s health, appearance, and her husband’s trade deals, even his slight at Clinton’s email scandal seemed to fall short.
The reason for this is simple; it’s old news. Clinton was not charged by the FBI during the summer over the email controversy and when Trump mentioned it in the debate she brushed it off as a mistake that she regrets. The well-versed Clinton took it in her stride.
Instead of reminding the public of some of Trump’s more bizarre claims and policies, Clinton campaigns against him as a traditional business conservative. The former Secretary of State hit him for rooting for the housing crisis so that he could benefit from the aftermath, and struck at him for paying no federal tax. After both of these blows Trump responds as a businessman would, not a politician. “That makes me smart … that’s called business by the way,” said Trump.
While the candidates tried to get under each other’s skin, Lester Holt tried to move the debate forward to address racial issues in the US. It is widely accepted that the minority vote is going to go to Clinton because of Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric.
Both candidates tread very carefully around racial relations and both appeared to avoid the topic in the debate, while Clinton brings the focus more to gun control and Trump talks about the stop-and-frisk programme that has been deemed unconstitutional in New York City, and which he wants to reintroduce.
Trump continued to respond with long meandering answers and Clinton took the opportunities to strike at past racist comments surrounding Barack Obama’s citizenship. “He has a long record of engaging in racist behaviour. And the birther lie was a very hurtful one,” said Clinton.
However, Trump plays to his strengths and uses the one thing that sets him apart and the reason that he is being supported so widely; the fact that he is not a politician. “It’s all words, it’s all soundbites,” he says after Clinton criticised him for his traditional business-minded politics, and adds, “typical politician: all talk, no action.”
Commentators around the United States have handed the first debate and the most watched presidential debate in history to Hillary Clinton. The bookmaker’s odds the next day reflected similarly promising results for the Democratic Party as they show that Clinton took a 4 point bounce.
However, the various polls taken by news organisations were a little bit more ambiguous.
The poll that was published by CNN which they conducted with the research company ORC after the debate suggests that the debate was won by Clinton.
CNBC on the other hand says that Donald Trump won the first debate as the results of their poll was that 67 percent said that Trump won.
In a poll run by TIME magazine 55% said that Trump won and 45% said that Clinton did while Bloomberg reported that Clinton won the first round.
However these polls are not scientific which means that the makeup of those who responded does not necessarily reflect the population of likely voters and there are many issues with inaccuracy and bias.
For example CNN who declared Clinton the winner only polled around 600 people and 40% of them were Democrats. Other news sites just had the poll on their website that anyone could click on including people not eligible to vote and people who had already voted.