A day after the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both sides were claiming victory. Surrogates for both sides made the case that their respective candidates had won bragging rights for their performance. Polling won’t show how voters viewed the debate for another few days, but the reactions of the campaigns shows who really won and lost.
Shortly after the debate, Trump complained about his microphone to CNN, saying, “And they also had, gave me a defective mic. Did you notice that? My mic was defective within the room. No, but I wonder, was that on purpose? Was that on purpose? But I had a mic that wasn’t worked properly, with, working properly within the room.”
If Trump’s microphone was not working, it is hard to prove it by debate night statistics. USA Today’s analysis of the debate found that Trump interrupted Clinton 39 times. Trump also spoke about three minutes longer than Clinton.
In the moments after the debate, Trump spoke with CNN Money about the debate moderator, “I thought Lester [Holt] did a great job. Honestly, I thought Lester did a great job.” When asked about the questions, Trump answered, “Yeah, I thought it was very fair.”
By the next morning, however, Trump was more critical of Holt. Politico notes that the candidate opined on “Fox and Friends” that “he didn’t ask her [Hillary] about a lot of things she should have been asked about” while Trump himself had received “some hostile questions” that “are not answerable in a positive light.”
Longtime Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani said on Tuesday that Trump should consider skipping the two remaining debates with Clinton. “If I were Donald Trump I wouldn’t participate in another debate unless I was promised that the journalist would act like a journalist and not an incorrect, ignorant fact checker,” Giuliani said in Politico.
While styled as a criticism of Lester Holt, a registered Republican since 2003 according to Time, Giuliani’s intent may have been to give Mr. Trump a valid excuse for ducking more encounters with Ms. Clinton. Most debate moderators are members of the news media and most members of the media are liberal. This is the same news media that a president would face on a regular basis.
Donald Trump did skip a Republican primary debate last fall under similar pretenses. Last January, he declined to participate in a Fox News debate hosted by Megyn Kelly on the grounds that she treated him unfairly at a previous debate.
While Donald Trump was making excuses, Hillary Clinton was gloating. Clinton told CNN that it was a “great, great” evening and that she was “looking forward to the next debate and the one after that.” Clinton also found time to take a final jab at Trump, saying, “Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night.”
Even though both candidates claimed victory in the debate, one campaign is clearly not treating the night as a victory. The Clinton camp seems to be making plans for the next debate while the Trump camp is making excuses.