Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was the winner of Sunday night’s second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis. However, media commentators denied Trump the outright win, or said it would not matter.
CNN’s Jake Tapper, for one, said tt the debate was a “wash.” His colleague, Gloria Borger, said: “He may have done enough to stop the bleeding. I’m not sure any minds were changed at this debate tonight. I think so much has occurred over the last 48 hours and this last week that people have to digest all of this, including the debate tonight, to see where they stand.” Co-panelist Mike Smerconish declared Trump the winner “on points”: “I think the night belongs to Donald Trump,” he said. But Smerconish added that Trump had fallen short, regardless: “Did he grow the tent? I can’t see that there was any outreach.”
Trump beat Clinton despite facing a three-on-one press from his opponent and from the moderators, who were at least as biased as they had been in any of the previous debates. CNN’s Anderson Cooper fired repeated follow-ups at Trump while leaving Clinton largely alone. But he, at least, brought up tough questions for Clinton on occasion. ABC News’ Martha Raddatz actively debated Trump at times, and silenced the audience when it cheered for Trump — though not for Clinton.
Still, Trump overcame that hostility and pressed Clinton effectively on the issues, as well as on her weakest points — the email scandal, Benghazi, and Obamacare. He was on better ground than Clinton when it came to citing facts, and he forced her into repeating the rather serious lie that the only emails she deleted from her private server were personal in nature. He also stood his ground on substantive policy questions while maintaining his cool — for the most part — when she tried personal attacks.
The media had largely declared the presidential race for Hillary Clinton Saturday, after many Republicans criticized Trump over comments he made in 2005 about groping women. The comments were captured by a live mic and surfaced Friday. Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News, said “the presidential race is over,” according to Republicans with whom he spoke. Despite Trump’s debate win, the media will be reluctant to let go of that narrative, with many cheering for his demise.
At the first debate, Trump refrained from placing any of the women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual impropriety in the front row, despite threatening to do so. This time, with the media and the Hillary Clinton campaign hitting Trump over his old remarks, Trump more than delivered on the threat, holding a press conference with four of Bill Clinton’s accusers — who also accused Hillary Clinton of trying to silence and slander them — before the debate, and placing them in the front row.
The Donald Trump that debated Hillary Clinton in St. Louis was better prepared, more passionate, and more focused on the issues than he was two weeks ago. He won, under incredible pressure.
The voters will see it, even if the media will not.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.