Donald Trump had a much better debate performance after the first awkward twenty minutes. After that, he had solid questions on Hillary Clinton’s emails and healthcare. Throughout the night he was able to put Hillary Clinton on defense and she looked uncomfortable, having to be aided throughout the night by Martha Raddatz.
But Trump then hit a brick wall at the Syria question where he threw Mike Pence under the bus for Pence’s audacious call to protect American sovereignty in the world.
The thing that stands out about this debate is that it was not, unlike the first debate, a referendum on Trump. The debate focused on more substantive questions, allowed Trump to highlight Clinton’s failed record, and reminded us again that Martha Raddatz has no business moderating a debate.
As the debate went on, Trump faded as he did in the previous debate. He paced the floor awkwardly. But he did fine. He will reassure panicked members of his base. I don’t know that it gets him anything though.
The reality is that the last week will vastly overshadow a Sunday night debate. The defections from Trump will probably slow. His base will be happy making further defections painful any who do. But this does not seem like a game changer.