How Matt Lauer helped Hillary Clinton

So, I was already thinking about writing a post like this when I saw the following tweet from David Axelrod

Only difference, I would go from “could aid” to “will aid” and not just for Lester Holt.  First, hardly anybody who is not already super-engaged cares about the national security forum with Lauer.  Sure, people like you and me may care a lot of this and Lauer’s poor performance, but the average voter simply is not paying attention unless something huge breaks through.  And Lauer embarrassing himself is not that.

Of course, if Americans did care about this forum (or bare bones competence in a president), Trump would drop 10% in the polls.  So much wrong, but here’s Jamelle Bouie:

A quick glance at the transcript shows what was obvious on the screen: Trump was unprepared. Woefully, disastrously unprepared. At no point did the Republican nominee give a substantive answer, opting instead for meandering and discursive discussions of his poll numbers, his victory in the GOP presidential primary, the support he’s drawn from members of the defense community, his businesses, and his “common sense.” Insofar that Trump had policy answers, they were either vague or outright nonsense, as in this exchange:

Audience question: I like what you say about supporting veterans and how they’re important. But I haven’t heard what the actual plans are to continue that support beyond words. How do you translate those words to action after you take office?

Trump: Well, I love that question, because I’ve been very close to the vets. You see the relationship I have with the vets just by looking at the polls. In fact, today a poll came out. And my relationship has been very good.

If preparation is a measure of seriousness, then Donald Trump isn’t especially serious about this election. Or at least not serious enough to learn the details of his only policies, or even craft policies to begin with. Trump carries himself with a proud ignorance, and that ignorance is a sign of contempt: contempt for the process, contempt for the job, and contempt for the people who believe in Trump and his message. [emphasis mine]
Yes, yes, and yes.  But I digress.  Back to Lauer and the debates.  Lauer has been pilloried by media-watcher types and journalists.  This is his peer group.  He probably wants to crawl under a rock.  No journalist wants to face this from their peer group.  Not Lauer, not Lester Holt, not Chris Wallace, nobody.  If ordinary citizens complain, fine, but when you are criticized by other journalists on the front of  Definitely embarrassing.   You better believe the debate moderators have noticed and are determined to not be similarly embarrassed.  And that is definitely to Clinton’s advantage.  First, they might actually do a better job of being fair and not letting Trump get away with obvious, predictable, bald-faced lies.  Second, ordinary voters will actually be paying attention to the debates.  Thus, ultimately Lauer’s performance strikes me as small short-term loss, larger long-term gain for Clinton.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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