Most observers believe Hillary Clinton did better in the recent television debate than Donald Trump. But not everybody did.
The Republican-supporting “Washington Times” newspaper claimed that Trump did better because he focussed on America’s (perceived) global weakness, and because he “projected authority”, and “appeared every bit the non-politician”.
He did appear to me to be more spontaneous than Hillary Clinton, who sometimes appeared to have memorised her lines. But the price of being spontaneous is that he said some things that were barely coherent – and were sometimes inaccurate.
Given that the United States is a democracy governed by politicians, rather than by bureaucrats, it is worth reflecting on the preferred system of government of anyone who thinks being a “non-politician“ is a plus. In the 1920s in parts of Europe, “anti-politician” rhetoric like this was often a prelude to something much worse.
The Washington Times also argued that Clinton had not been asked the hard questions about her record as Secretary of State in the Obama Administration on
- the attempted “reset “ of relations with Russia and
- the rise of China.
I think the intervention in Libya, although motivated by humanitarian concerns, may have led to even worse humanitarian results than non-intervention, but that is hard to prove. Trump may bring that up in later debates. Mrs Clinton’s support for the Iraq war, as a US Senator, is not quite at the same level of responsibility as Mr Trump’s alleged initial support for it as a private citizen, and she got away with pretending that it was.
It is hard to argue that an attempt should not have been made to improve relations with Russia, although these have proved fruitless.
It is not clear what Mrs Clinton’s critics would have wished the Obama Administration to have done about the rise of China. It did attempt to negotiate a Trans Pacific Agreement to draw the rest of Asia closer to the US and away from China, but both Trump and Clinton now oppose that .
Trump’s plan to impose a 45% tariff on Chinese imports to the US would certainly slow China’s rise, but would hurt America too. That issue was not explored in the debate, which was a great pity. Mrs Clinton seemed to be more interested in Mr Trump’s business past, than in his potential future trade policies.
The race will be fought in a few battleground states. Under the Electoral College system, a narrow win in the popular vote can gain all the electors of that state for the winning candidate. The margin of victory does not matter. The winner takes all. Because of the way her support is spread throughout the country, this system gives Hillary Clinton the advantage.
To win the College, Trump must therefore win all four of the following states:
- Florida (where he is 0.5 points behind in the latest polls),
- Pennsylvania (where he is 1.8 points behind),
- North Carolina (where he is 0.8 points ahead), and
- Ohio (where he is a more comfortable 2 points ahead)
She needs to win just one of these swing states. So he needs a major win in the debates to achieve this, and so far he has not achieved that.