If the campaign started yesterday

After reading dozens of takes on the debate today, I still think my favorite is from Matt Yglesias wrote last night.  First, he points out that on Trump’s co-signature issue of trade, he literally has no idea what he’s talking about:

What’s particularly odd about this is that while Trump doesn’t know anything about trade policy and isn’t in possession of any relevant facts about American manufacturing, he seems to see trade policy as the only economic issue worth discussing. You would never know from Trump’s discourse that the vast majority of Americans work in jobs related to domestic service provision — they work in hospitals and restaurants and schools and stores working with nearby customers, not internationally traded manufacturing.

A particularly vexing aspect of this is that the GOP nominee’s core business expertise is in real estate development. Under the circumstances, you might think he would have something useful and insightful to say about house building or some other adjacent sector of the economy. But he no more talked about construction than he talked about health care.

But, my favorite part is the conclusion, because it puts this all in a broader context and reminds us just how crazy this candidacy is.  We’re all so used to Trump now, but it is not remotely normal to have a candidate so utterly clueless and incurious on issues of national policy:

On one level, “Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about” is the ultimate dog-bites-man story of the 2016 election.

But that’s why I think it’s useful to try to purge yourself of your existing knowledge of the campaign. If you just tuned in Monday night expecting to see two well-qualified and broadly competent candidates discussing the issues in some kind of recognizable shape, you would find yourself sorely disappointed.

The conceit of the Trump campaign is that he’s a smart, business-savvy outsider who can fix things. But he clearly has no idea how to fix things. He doesn’t even seem to have a grasp of what the problems are.

If you were just tuning in to this campaign, you would find yourself hung up on a pretty obvious question — why did the Republican Party nominate a guy who clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about? It’s a good question.

Actually, I think it’s a question we had some good whacks at back during the primaries as the Republican party has, sadly, become post-policy in many ways.  But, again, seriously, ask yourself if you had been on a deserted island for a year and dropped in on this campaign, you would be literally shocked about what a poor candidate Trump is.  But here we are.

The insta-polls

No, really, I should just go to bed.  From Jon Bernstein:

Too easy to dismiss this as “how’d that work out for Romney?”  Do the debates usually change election outcomes?  Nope.  But can the debates matter and move the polls a few points?  Sure.  And tell me right now you don’t think a few points matter.

So, does some insta-poll of an overly-Democratic sample actually mean anything?  Nope.  But, it will help drive the media narrative and that’s what really matters (again, ask Al Gore post first debate).   John Kerry lost to GWB, of course, but he really seemed to make up ground after a solid first debate performance (largely forgotten as he ultimately lost).  I remember watching all the post-debate coverage and you could literally see it evolve in real time in response to the first insta-poll.  It had Kerry “winning” the debate by 7 points or so.  Because that influenced coverage, a couple days later, it was near consensus that Kerry had won.

So, sure it’s the savvy, sophisticated thing to say debates don’t matter.  But just because they usually don’t matter and when they do, they probably don’t matter that much, is no reason to discount that what happened tonight was, at worst, a little bit good for Clinton (and who won’t take that in a tight race), and, at best in an unusually uncertain election environment, very good for Clinton.

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