Clinton and Trump Face off in the First Presidential Debate

Why she won, what cards each candidate played and A+ mic drops.


First debate.jpg

Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton shakes hands with Republican  nominee Donald J. Trump moments before the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.


By Patricia de Pastors

11:50 PM PST 9/27/16


A record-breaking 100 million people were expected to tune in last night, when the first of the three presidential debates leading up to November 8th was held. There were punches, there were laughs, there was fact-checking and oh boy, were there tweets.


She went there while letting him do the yelling

“She won the night, but he lived to fight another day,” the New York Times declares today. It was a 62% versus 27%, so it’s fair to say that political views aside, preparation beats spontaneity and you can’t scream your way into the White House — “I should know,” Billy Eichner artfully live tweeted.

She won and she did with grit and grace (see what I did here?) according to the vast majority of publications. She let Trump fly off the handle and contradict himself all the while. She dropped the bombs: the “birther lie“, his supporting the invasion of Iraq, perpetually insulting women, evading taxes or being temperamentally unfit for the presidency — all those strategically repeated terms during her campaign, for those just tuning in.

Interrupting her 22 times in 26 minutes, Donald’s “cool” appeared to abandon him after half an hour, when he started systematically denying whatever fact she’d throw at him only to then turn them around on her. For example, he claimed to be proud of getting President Obama to produce his birth certificate (after deeming that a failure of her 2008 campaign) or that his best asset is indeed his temperament — to which the audience broke out in laughter.


She put forth her plan on economy, foreign policy in plain words

During the first 25 minutes, the Queens native did an arguably very good job. He made Clinton stumble upon bringing up key topics like trade, and took her by surprise (perhaps because she was expecting to face this later on) by counterattacking with the emails when she asked him to release his tax returns, one of her strongest arguments as of last night. The reality television personality seemed comfortable in winging his performance and even played along with the audience. But then again, a good 75 minutes still remained and when she referenced her plans in regards to ISIS, tuition-free college, planned parenthood or equal pay for women, all he expounded was his intention to dismantle said terrorist organisation, strengthen legislations on immigration policies with divisive measures or tackle unemployment by urging Americans to stick to their current jobs. 

She watched her body language

Hillary was far from being a knockout: she seemed too nerdy at times and didn’t quite come across as the humane and trustworthy politician she so struggles to; a more personable and easygoing approach would have likely softened Bernie’s stalwarts and mobilised the undecided toward those 270 votes needed, according to pundits.

Nonetheless, her campaign managers might well have been toasting beers in the green room because she nailed a couple of crucial image-related moments. First, at no point did she fall for his provocative strategy: she didn’t raise her voice, react opinionatedly to his inaccurate statements or casually prompt the crowd to with grins or nods. Second, she pulled a brilliant Frank Underwood when she looked at the camera for ten seconds straight at the most vital moment to connect with her supporters — when he denied having supported the aforementioned invasion of Iraq. Her gaze spoke on her behalf, as if to say “just judge for yourself. Can you imagine this guy throwing a tantrum at a global summit when contradicted about a state affair?”

Finally, she oozed much more confidence and authority through her body language: she balanced calmly smiling and actively listening to Trump’s answers and proposals, didn’t sip water at any point while he did six times (her past issues with coughing have been a bone of contention as regards her health), she made sure to shake hands with “moderator” Lester Holt before he did and unlike him, spent time greeting audience members alongside her family after the face-off was over.

She painted a hopeful America as opposed to a collapsed one

Regardless of the way they expressed, the very core of the debate of course underlied in their messages: he painted an unsafe and collapsed America that only he on his own can carry forward with his entrepreneurial experience. On the contrary, she depicted a hopeful landscape in which everybody will have a fair shot at their potential should we come together

In other words, she appealed to women, youngsters, seniors, immigrants, homosexuals… While he did to his mostly elderly white male base of voters.

Trump didn’t make the most of his attacks

The Republican nominee brought up Bernie and the emails only once. Both issues having posed such serious threatens to the nomination process and her campaign altogether, many wondered why he didn’t make the most of the opportunity. Likewise, never did he mentioned her recent pneumonia, undoubtedly her most uneventful issue as of late. And when the conversation turned to his bigotry, he alluded Rosie O’Donnell (the gay TV personality whose feud with him dates back to 2006) without either Clinton or Holt asking him to. “I said very tough things to her and I think everybody would agree she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her,” he concluded, letting Hollywood remind him why they’re #WithHer.

But his most conspicuous attack was on her stamina — which handed her the comeback of the night on a silver platter. Lester asked him about his having stated that she doesn’t have a presidential look and, visibly cornered, he let out that her lack of stamina would prevent her from successfully negotiating with Japan or South Arabia. Her response: “as soon as he travels to 112 countries (she broke the record of countries visited when Secretary of State) and negotiates [peace deals] or spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina”. Rehearsed answer: yes. Demolishing one: you tell me.

Still, not all was a bed of roses: her trust and likability issues persist

Despite referencing her life-long work as a women and children advocate and her own experience as a grandmother, the Chicago native was claimed to appear unreliable and wise-ass.

Her admittedly mistaken use of her private email server is clearly still a subject of controversy, and one that has very much harmed her candidacy. After taking full responsibility when it surfaced last year, she moved on and though it goes without saying that she’s not going to dance on talk shows or jam the news like the Obamas have throughout his time in office (God, are they going to be missed), at 67 and after more than 40 under the scrutiny of the public eye, it’s not hard to fathom that Mrs. Clinton would rather focus on getting across a proposal of growth, stability and opportunities for all citizens alike than play the cool gal for click bait. (And still, she always rocks it on Ellen).


As expected, Trump appealed to his tough and nonchalant guy reputation (and successfully so at the outset). His nonverbal language displayed in accordance and he satisfied his supporters by disrespectfully blaming it all on the democrat.

Hillary, on the contrary, had thoroughly prepared the topics and showed off an aplomb and measure that won her the night. What didn’t work for her was her reportedly forced sense of humor, which many perceived as arrogant and stiff.




A determining percentage of the electorate are the so-called millenials (those born between 1980 and 2000). Hence, it was paramount that both campaigns’ game be strong social networks wise. Myriads of tweets kept flying from their VPs, relatives and staffers and indeed, for the first time in history hopefuls will take questions in their next smack-down that were posted on Facebook last night.

The most intense moments turned into gifs, memes and trending topics (#sniffles, #shimmy), and numerous TV personalities like Seth MacFarlane, Leslie Jones or Rosie O’Donnell herself shared her love of Trump (and Hillary). His most applauded moment was when he brought up the emails, and hers when she laughed and made a shimmy after several minutes awaiting her turn to talk.

In short, the first presidental debate was dense yet entertaining and covered all the key topics. Supporters of both sides caught a glimpse into the performance they would deliver as Commander-In-Chief, and undecided voters were given a few more arguments to compare between. 

Now, only six weeks away from election day all eyes are on next Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate, with Republican candidate Mike Pence (Governor of Indiana) and Democratic hopeful Tim Kaine (Senator from Virginia).

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All political views compiled in it are the result of the sources referenced throughout it. No personal beliefs are defended.

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