Monthly Archives: September 2016

My reactions to 2016’s first presidential debate

Since people ask, here’s what I think about the debate last night:
1. “Who won?” is not a very interesting question because it’s highly subjective and borderline irrelevant to wider questions of the effect of debates on the attitudes and vote intentions of potential voters.
2. Obviously, Clinton was better prepared and Trump is easily flustered. No big surprise there.
3. Like debates in previous years, the performance style and “gaffes” of the candidates overshadow the discussion of specific policies and priorities.
4. That being said, in this particular election I think it’s fair to give disproportionate attention to the character and temperament of the two candidates and it arguably makes a bigger difference this time around.
5. On that same note, debates are poor venues for serious policy discussions anyways and are better measures of how candidates perform in situations of intense pressure. I agree with the widespread consensus that Clinton showed that she can perform better under pressure than Trump. Again, no big surprise.
6. I know there are haters out there, but I really like the new debate format that allows for a freer exchange between the two candidates with less regulation from the moderator.
7. Even though debates rarely “move the needle” enough to make a substantive difference in presidential election outcomes, there’s some evidence that they *can* move the needle *a little*, especially if the performance is disproportionately good or bad in one direction or another. Nate Silver is predicting today a small bounce for Clinton given last night’s performance.
8. There are very, very few Clinton supporters who likely decided to support Trump as a result of the debate and even fewer Trump supporters who decided to support Clinton as a result of the debate. I’m more interested to see how many Trump or Clinton supporters move into Gary Johnson’s column and vice-versa. I’m guessing there won’t be very many, though.
9. I’m excited to see the remaining three debates.
10. If you feel like it, read my post from 2012 on the advantages and disadvantages of the modern debate format.