Donald Trump paced the debate stage on Sunday night promising to jail Hillary Clinton when he is elected president, calling her a liar, and drudging up the sex scandals that have dogged the Clintons at virtually every step of their political journey.
There is no other way to put it: the second presidential debate was nasty, no holds barred, with plenty of mudslinging.
Mr. Trump stepped on to the stage with his presidential campaign in a tailspin, key Republican politicians ditching him, and others calling on him to quit over a controversial 2005 video. Mr. Trump said the comments were “locker-room talk.” He stepped off as the same defiant presidential candidate who will run on his own terms – regardless of whatever other controversies pop up.
Meanwhile, the knockout punch Ms. Clinton hoped to land eluded her. She regularly clashed with her rival and outshone him with the audience. The town-hall format is as much about the undecided voters that get to ask questions. Ms. Clinton consistently engaged with questioners and empathized with them.
Here are some of the highlights from the second presidential debate.
Segment 1: Role-modelling appropriate behaviour
The opening question from an undecided voter is about role-modelling good behaviour to young people. Ms. Clinton answers first, and then Mr. Trump. But it takes moderator Anderson Cooper to follow up with the question on everyone’s mind.
“You’ve bragged that you sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”
Mr. Trump denies the sexual-assault allegation and pivots to eliminating the Islamic State.
Ms. Clinton for the first time addresses the Trump video controversy – reminding viewers: “Yes this is who Donald Trump is.”
Ms. Clinton does not pummel her Republican rival. It is a measured response and an appeal to Americans about values of tolerance and respect.
“It’s just words folks, it’s just words,” says Mr. Trump in response.
Martha Raddatz returns to the Trump video. Mr. Trump defends himself saying that it was “locker-room” talk. He pivots to attacking former president Bill Clinton and his sex scandals.
Ms. Clinton responds: “When they go low, you go high,” she says, paraphrasing Michelle Obama. There is loud applause from the audience. Ms. Clinton invites voters to decide whether they think Mr. Trump respects women.
Segment 2: Donald Trump unleashes on Hillary Clinton
Ms. Clinton gives a string of examples where Mr. Trump has failed to apologize for his past behaviour and comments, including the American-Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.
Mr. Trump unleashes on Ms. Clinton, saying that he will create a special prosecutor to investigate Ms. Clinton over the e-mail server scandal, among other things.
“And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself,” he says.
Ms. Clinton tries to dismiss Mr. Trump, pointing to his temperament and unwillingness to stick to the facts as reasons why he shouldn’t be in the White House.
“Because you’d be in jail,” says Mr. Trump.
The Clinton campaign plan is to get under Mr. Trump’s skin. But it is Mr. Trump who is getting under Ms. Clinton’s skin.
At one point Ms. Clinton pauses for several moments and appears irritated. She accuses him of trying to create a diversion because of his exploding campaign.
Segment 3: Islamophobia
This is a moment that is made for the town-hall format.
The question is from a Muslim-American undecided voter about Islamophobia and what each candidate would do to help Americans such as her who increasingly face intolerance.
Mr. Trump offers a cold response. “Muslims have to report the problems when they see them,” he says.
He cites the Orlando and Paris attacks. The suggestion is that American Muslims are not doing their part to stop terror attacks.
Ms. Clinton talks to the young woman about how there have been Muslims in America since the time of the country’s founding. She points to the death this past summer of one of the country’s greatest icons: boxing legend Muhammad Ali, an American Muslim.
She contrasts her inclusive vision with Mr. Trump’s “demagogic rhetoric.”
Faced with an opportunity to empathize with an audience member, Ms. Clinton takes advantage. Mr. Trump takes a pass.
Segment 4: Wikileaks
The question: Is it acceptable for politicians to have two faces?
The voter question draws on Wikileaks transcripts of highly paid speeches that Ms. Clinton gave to Wall Street and big banks. In one speech, Ms. Clinton talks about how politicians need to have public and private positions.
Ms. Clinton explains that the comment was taken out of context. She was referring to the film Lincoln that showed how the U.S. president’s message shifted depending on which group he was talking to.
Mr. Trump huffs in disgust.
Later, Mr. Trump delivers a sharp line that makes Ms. Clinton look foolish: “Now she’s blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe.”
This is a cocky Republican presidential candidate. It would not be obvious that his campaign his exploding, as Democrats suggest. He is stalking the stage and returning to his chair and gripping the back of it as Ms. Clinton speaks.
Segment 5: A president for all
A black undecided voter asks whether each candidate believes that they can be a devoted president to all people in the U.S.
Mr. Trump is very effective here – reminding voters of Ms. Clinton’s comment that half of Mr. Trump’s supporters were a “basket of deploreables.”
But what is most striking about Mr. Trump’s answer is the bleak picture he paints of inner-city America and black life: poverty, gun violence, poor education and hopelessness.
“What do you have to lose? It can’t get any worse,” he says. At no point does Mr. Trump engage the questioner in the audience.
Then it’s Ms. Clinton’s turn. She shows how it is done. Ms. Clinton walks toward the questioner, addressed him by name, makes eye contact and engages him.
It’s not perfect – but it’s better than what Mr. Trump can do.
Segment 6: Discipline
Anderson Cooper asks a question about Mr. Trump’s middle-of-the night tweets urging people to find a sex tape of a former Miss Universe winner.
Mr. Trump points out that Alicia Machado was built up by the Clinton campaign as a “girl scout” – that was furthest from the truth, according to Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump reportedly called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” – details that Ms. Clinton brought up in the first debate and ones that her campaign pursued in the days that followed.
“Is that the discipline of a good leader?” Mr. Cooper pressed.
But Mr. Trump will not be cornered and pursues a confusing line of argument that traverses an old Clinton ally and the murdered U.S. ambassador to Libya.
The question is put to Ms. Clinton: Does she think Mr. Trump has the discipline?
“No,” she says.
“I’m shocked to hear that,” says Mr. Trump. There are chuckles from the audience.
Ms. Clinton ends on several strong lines – noting that it’s not she who feels Mr. Trump lacks the discipline and temperament. It is much of the national security establishment and senior Republicans. She talks about her co-operation with former U.S. president George W. Bush in the days after 9/11.
This is bi-partisan Hillary Clinton – an appeal to moderate Republicans. She also talks about her husband’s presidency in glowing terms: the journey from deficit to surplus, the creation of millions of jobs and growing incomes.
A strong stretch for Ms. Clinton.
Segment 7: Name one positive thing
There is always the potential for a memorable moment when voters get to ask questions.
So far, not sure that moment has actually happened.
But this is a pretty good question from a voter in the audience: Regardless of the current rhetoric, name one positive thing that you respect in one another?
There is laughter in the audience.
Ms. Clinton goes first.
“I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted. I don’t agree with nearly anything he says or does, but I do respect that,” she says.
The camera cuts away to some blank looking Trump children and straight-faced Melania Trump. Not a bad answer and one that she probably prepped for. Mr. Trump looks grateful and appreciates the compliment.
The Trump children are widely seen as an asset. In particular, Ivanka Trump is seen as softening the hard image of her father. She has been front and centre in campaign roll-outs of key policy platforms such as paid maternity leave.
It is a rare moment of the two candidates appearing conciliatory.
Now it is Mr. Trump’s turn, and he describes her as a “fighter.”
“I will say this about Hillary, she doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up,” he says.
Ms. Clinton happily accepts the description. Ms. Clinton as a tireless advocate for women and children is a big part of the campaign narrative.
The debate ends on a rare positive note on an otherwise ugly night.
MORE READING FROM THE GLOBE
Before the second presidential debate
Donald Trump is aiming for a comeback and Hillary Clinton is eyeing the knockout that eluded her when the two candidates met for their first debate last month.
The Democratic presidential candidate has so far remained silent on the Trump video controversy. On Sunday night, she is expected to let loose.
The second U.S. presidential debate has high stakes and audience figures are likely to rival the record 84-million that that tuned in on Sept. 26. Also, voting day is just over four weeks away and Mr. Trump needs a strong showing to change the trajectory of the presidential race.
In the hours ahead of the live debate, President Barack Obama, while campaigning in Chicago for a Democratic senate candidate, has been talking about Mr. Trump. Here is what he had to say:
- He referred to “the unbelievable rhetoric coming from the top of the Republican ticket.”
- “I don’t need to repeat it — there are children in the room,” he said. Mr. Obama called it “disturbing” without ever mentioning Mr. Trump by name or the video controversy.
- Mr. Trump’s pattern of insulting women, minorities, U.S. troops and veterans, and people with disabilities, showed that he was insecure, said the President.
- “He’s insecure enough that he pumps himself up by putting other people down,” said Mr. Obama, adding that it also showed that “he doesn’t care much about the basic values we try to impart to our kids.”
Mr. Trump is under siege. A slew of senior Republican slammed his hot mic comments from the 2005 video in which he can be heard making lewd comments about women.
U.S. Senator John McCain has withdrawn his Trump endorsement. He is among at least 25 senior Republicans that are ditching the Republican presidential candidate, according to The Guardian. Former senior George W. Bush administration official, Condoleezza Rice took to Facebook: “Enough! Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw,” she said.
Vice President Joe Biden slammed the Republican presidential candidate on Twitter.
The words are demeaning. Such behavior is an abuse of power. It’s not lewd. It’s sexual assault. –Joe— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 8, 2016
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is vowing not to quit the race. He and his surrogates are arguing that Mr. Trump’s words do not compare to the actions of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Trump is expected to bring up decades-old sex scandals against the former president and Ms. Clinton’s role in seeking to discredit the women behind the allegations during the Sunday night debate.
Get ready for the second presidential debate battle that could make history for how low it goes. Here is your viewer’s guide.
When and where: The second presidential debate takes place on Oct. 9. The two candidates will walk on to the stage at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., on Sunday night at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. That means the debate starts in the middle of Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers. Two screens may be necessary.
Format: Half of the questions will come from an audience that is made up of undecided voters selected by the polling firm Gallup. The balance of questions will cover a broad range of issues, draw on social media and come from the moderators, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz. The debate lasts 90 minutes.
To win: Ms. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, was widely seen as the winner of the first debate. The Globe and Mail asked Alan Schroeder, professor of journalism at Northeastern University and author of Presidential Debates: Risky Business on the Campaign Trail, what he thinks each candidate needs to do to win the second debate.
For Trump it is a question of undoing the self-inflicted damage he incurred in the first debate. Can he display any sense of seriousness, of growth, of learning from his previous mistakes?
For Clinton it is a question of maintaining the momentum that followed her out of the first debate. She approached that debate with a clear strategy – to needle and provoke her opponent into self-destructing – and that strategy succeeded better than anyone expected. Now that Trump knows what he is in for, such approach may be less effective the second time around.
Polls: Heading into the second presidential debate, Ms. Clinton enjoys a lead in national polls and key battleground state surveys. That is a marked change from Sept. 26 – when the presidential rivals met at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
At that moment in the campaign, the race was deadlocked. But Ms. Clinton’s steady debate performance and Mr. Trump’s meltdown delivered a bump in the polls that puts Ms. Clinton in front.
A Reuters poll released Friday of likely voters in a Clinton-Trump match-up shows the Democratic candidate leading by five percentage points. In the key battleground state of Ohio, Ms. Clinton is ahead by two points.
Buzz: Mr. Trump, the Republican candidate, is caught in a swirl of negative press. He and his surrogates are strident in defending their fat-shaming of a former Miss Universe winner, arguing that paying no federal taxes is evidence that Mr. Trump is a genius, dodging allegations that the Trump organization broke rules by trying to invest in Cuba and dismissing crass comments he allegedly made to contestants on The Apprentice as entertainment.
Now there is the infamous 2005 video in which he boasts about kissing and groping women.
The good news for the Trump campaign is that vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence was widely seen as winning the Oct. 4 vice-presidential debate. That also puts pressure on Mr. Trump to continue the momentum and be like his running mate: focused and disciplined in his message.
Plot line: The first presidential debate ended on a rather sour note – with Mr. Trump threatening to dig into the Clinton family’s past. Republicans patted Mr. Trump on the back for being a gentleman and showing restraint. But there will be little restraint on Sunday night.
There are two things to consider: Mr. Trump is not likely to embrace the rigours of debate preparation heading into the second debate and stay focused on stage. The lewd video controversy is his main preoccupation now. His debate stage performance could be more erratic than the first debate.
Secondly, the Clinton campaign may be counting their lucky stars, but Ms. Clinton has her own controversy brewing.
It’s not quite on the same scale as Mr. Trump’s, but leaked Wikileaks transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street and big banks in which she spoke about her dream of a hemispheric common market, open border and free trade will be more than fair game on Sunday night. Mr. Trump has struck a distinctly anti-free trade position popular in some battleground states.
- Age: 70
- Experience: Real-estate mogul and TV showman
- Debate experience: 12 Republican debates in 2015 and 2016
- Debate style: Prickly; combative; dismissive; unprepared
- Age: 68
- Experience: U.S. secretary of state; U.S. senator; first lady
- Debate experience: Dozens of debates going back to her 2000 and 2006 Senate races and her 2008 and 2016 presidential bids
- Debate style: Methodical as a lawyer; versed like a policy wonk; a seasoned debater
Three things to watch for in the second debate
1. The power of the voter question
The first presidential debate that included questions from the live audience took place in 1992. The format got off to a bumpy start.
The questions were not vetted and, generally speaking, voters don’t ask very good questions, says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor of communications and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1992, a question from a voter about the national debt stumped President George H.W. Bush. In large part, it had to do with the question not being clear, says Dr. Jamieson.
But Mr. Bush’s difficulty answering the question also fed into a narrative – one advanced by the Clinton campaign that year – that the incumbent president was out of touch with voters. It didn’t help that Mr. Bush can be seen glancing at his watch during the town hall. The end result: Mr. Bush saw no bump in the polls, said Dr. Jamieson.
The town-hall format has an upside: Play it well and it can have a humanizing effect.
Both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump struggle with issues of likeability and the ability to show empathy, says Kelly Dittmar, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University and scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics.
For each candidate, the town hall is an opportunity. But it also carries a risk: In the spotlight, candidates could appear unrelatable.
“To me there is an opportunity as well for the moderators and the audience to ask a question that they won’t have a prepared answer for and to really get a moment of authenticity. And again the authenticity might work to their advantage or disadvantage depending on what it is,” said Dr. Dittmar.
2. The body language and onstage dynamic
Some presidential candidates are at ease in the town-hall format. Remember, there’s no podium. So candidates are free to move around the stage.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton was a master at the format – able to deflect an attack from a rival, connect with an audience member and showcase his skills for viewers in the tens of millions watching at home.
A 90-minute debate requires stamina. Prof. Schroeder says he will be watching closely each “candidate’s technique in what is a distinctly physical debate format.”
“How well do they manoeuvre that physical environment, where they are free to walk around and interact with the questioners,” he added.
Watch also how the candidates manage that onstage proximity to each other.
The risks of an overly aggressive Mr. Trump getting into Ms. Clinton’s space is there, and it’s the kind of behaviour that turns off male and female voters, said Dr. Dittmar, author of Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns.
3. The Bill Clinton sex scandal
Mr. Trump and his surrogates have been dropping strong hints and toying with the idea of bringing up the 42 nd president’s sex scandals during the Sunday night debate.
The fact is that audience members in the town-hall setting have assembled to hear the candidates address their concerns, explains Prof. Schroeder.
By bringing up former president Bill Clinton’s infidelities, Mr. Trump runs the risk of his attacks falling flat. “I t could also engender a backlash of sympathy for Hillary Clinton,” said Prof. Schroeder.
Dr. Dittmar says there is little interest in the electorate to litigate the Clinton scandals from the 1990s all over again and many feel that bringing up Mr. Clinton’s infidelities is a below-the-belt tactic that would make voters uncomfortable.
It would also further hurt his chances with moderate female voters that lean Republican.
“Those women while they may not like the Clintons, or they may not agree with Bill Clinton’s infidelities, generally they are going to potentially believe what a lot of women believe, which is that a wife, a woman, shouldn’t be punished for the sins of her husband,” said Dr. Dittmar.
With a report from Associated Press