Debate Recap: Trump Struggles to Live Up to Expectations


In this recap of the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we’ll look at the expectations set for each candidate and decide who won.

As anticipated, the first presidential debate of the 2016 election was certainly interesting. We laughed, we cried, we cringed, we prayed for sweet death to just make this all go away. Hopefully you all survived and didn’t get alcohol poisoning trying to keep up with drinking games. Things went off more or less without a hitch, seeing as how our planet is still intact and neither candidate unzipped their human suits to reveal the lizard underneath.

So let’s get down to business. What the hell happened last night? Can we determine whether anybody actually “won” the debate? Did this debate reveal any new information? What can we infer about the future based on what we witnessed last night? So many questions, yet so few concrete answers.

As expected, although the topics for debate covered important things like national security and prosperity, things veered wildly off course at times. Emails and tax returns were discussed at length, lots of name-dropping happened on both sides, and both candidates struggled to show that they can relate to the average American.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Leading up to the debate, it was apparent that there were already some double standards at play here. Commentators talked about how this was Clinton’s opportunity to prove herself and demonstrate her ability to do the job well. This was her time to show everyone that she’s more than just an email scandal and a big name. She needed to show that she could hold her own on the stage and lay out her plan and relate to the millennial voters and come across as likable, and also not be visibly ill.

On the other hand, when these same people discussed Trump, the expectations were undeniably much lower. He needed to get through the debate without lying too much or interrupting anyone. Basically he didn’t need to prove his own credentials or lay out his own plans or try to be likable or relatable. His job was to not screw up too horribly.

The whole thing was an absolute circus. Trump, clearly suffering from some undisclosed illness, interrupted Clinton 14 times before I gave up and stopped counting. Clinton interrupted Trump one time that I noted, and as a bonus, threw her opponent a “well, actually…”, the favorite phrase of *Very Smart* men on the internet. In between numerous sips of water and bouts of sniffling, Trump managed to pull himself together enough to argue with moderator Lester Holt and declare everyone’s wrongness several times.

I have a feeling by the end of this evening I’m going to be blamed for everything. — Hillary Clinton

As Clinton spoke, Trump made a number of uncomfortable faces and appeared to begin dozing off at a few points. He appeared slightly disheveled and confused as he squinted into the camera, struggling to smile and look pleasant. His pinched face and flailing hands were rather off-putting and didn’t do much to soften his image. His long-winded incoherent responses rarely touched on the actual topic at hand and raised some alarm bells with regards to his mental faculties. As the election nears closer, the stress of the campaign is clearly taking its toll on the 70-year old candidate. The American people would be wise to question whether he is mentally and physically capable of completing a four year term in office without any serious health issues.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

While Clinton did her best to talk about her real world experience and demonstrate her knowledge of the issues as well as her own plans, Trump had other ideas. He used this opportunity to continue shouting about the same old things he’s been shouting about. The Mexicans and Chinese are stealing our jobs, America is terrible, we need to get rid of all the immigrants, we need more police cracking down on African-American neighborhoods, and we need to put other countries in their place. Some of his responses on crime seemed to imply that he believes African-Americans and Latinos are overwhelmingly criminals and should be monitored more closely.

Clinton’s actual experience speaks for herself, and while she didn’t need to prove her credentials, she did anyway. There were moments when she struggled and there were a few regrettable turns of phrase like “trumped up trickle down” that she used to describe Trump’s proposed economic policy. She remained exceedingly calm considering the situation, but as a powerful woman in politics, she’s certainly had decades of experience dealing with very loud men.

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The expectations for Clinton were high, but she did a fine job. She wasn’t amazing, and she relied a little too heavily on some carefully practiced lines, but overall she knew what she was talking about and managed to come off looking like a solid candidate. She kept her cool under pressure and did her best to keep the debate on track.

The most interesting result of this night was that we were able to see the two candidates have a lot more in common than you might think. Underneath it all, both candidates are fairly moderate, and their policies on things like crime and gun control are similar.

This night was really about seeing how each candidate would perform on stage, and in that realm there was only one obvious winner. Trump struggled to contain his outrageous reality TV show persona, and continued to be just as openly sexist and rude as always. Despite what the election commentators were telling us before the debate, Trump’s main duty at this debate was to prove that he has some kind of substance beyond all of the dramatic shouting, outright lies, and ridiculous statements about his own wealth and business experience.

Unfortunately, in that regard, Trump failed to live up to the very low expectations that were set for him. As someone coming from outside the political world, it is up to him to show America that he can handle the most important job on Earth and that he knows what he is doing. The position of president of the United States is not a joke or a television role, and certainly not a job one can enter into lightly. Trump should have been able to show us that despite all of the drama and bluster of these last few months on the campaign trail, deep down he does take this seriously and understands the true gravity of the job which he is applying for.

Next: 5 of the Most WTF Moments from the First Presidential Debate

Trump did not accomplish any of these things and overall he failed to prove that he has what it takes to do this job. This failure along with his questionable health, sheds a new light on the election and may sway some previously undecided voters.