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.

More post debate thoughts

I should take a Xanax, let this all go for now, and go to bed.  Should.  A few quick thoughts.

1) How I know Clinton won.  Democrats are always so ready to freak out and panic.  Not the slightest hint of that.  Sure, each side likes to think it won, but in my experience, Dems are too ready to think they’ve lost.  Literally none of that here.

2) That said, we’ll have a much better idea tomorrow who won.  And that’s going to be based on what the media decides is worth focusing on for the rest of the week coming out of the debate.  That said, again, I have a hard time seeing how that’s not Trump’s temperament, Trump’s lies, or Trump’s taxes.  Hmmm, I guess I really think Clinton won.

3) And to be clear, “winning” a debate is far less about what happens on that stage than the consensus narrative that the media comes to about the debate in the following day(s).

4) This was Trump’s big chance to be “presidential.”  Only pulled it off for 30 minutes or so.  That’s not good enough.

5) I should probably have more to say.  Sorry.  Hopefully some good stuff tomorrow.

Quick post-debate

We’ll have a better idea of where the media narrative reaches consensus in the morning, but for now, I’ll take this as a good sign:


Also, that’s not even saying anything about the taxes.  I think that’s going to have legs.

What to expect from the debate?

I have no idea.


Okay, kind of.  Here’s the thing, it is so obvious what Trump needs to do.  John Dickerson laid it out during a recent Gabfest and Seth Masket quotes:

Yet over at Slate’s Political Gabfest, John Dickerson reminds us that quite a few voters will not be watching the debate as it airs, but will depend upon news coverage of it, which will largely boil down to a few key moments. He offered some suggestions as to how Trump could exploit that feature to change voters’ perceptions:

You should do all the things that people said you have not done. Be self-deprecating, be generous. Show some set of qualities that nobody’s ever associated with you throughout this entire campaign. And if you show them, you will get 100 million people watching, and all the coverage will be about that…. Do that, and you’ll get several days of: “Oh my gosh, look, he can restrain his impulses. Hecan fulfill the role that’s being asked of him. And if he can do that in a debate, he can do that in the presidency.”

That could change the campaign somewhat. But it’s dependent upon Trump’s own discipline as a campaigner, something that’s not really been detected in abundance. Just as that scenario could benefit him, so a lapse into misogynistic slurs could hurt him, and we know he’s prone to that.

Yes.  That’s what scares the hell out of me.  Trump being given a stupidly low bar, and easily exceeding it.  Also, Ezra:

This is the Donald Trump curve. Hillary Clinton needs to answer every question perfectly and make people laugh while she does it. Trump needs to stop lying and bragging so much. It defies parody. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. [emphases mine]

MSNBC is simply echoing the conventional wisdom. Clinton “faces higher expectations than Donald Trump when the two square off for the first debate on Long Island,” reports Politico. This is the conclusion of Politico’s “insiders poll,” which surveys a select group of political elites. The responses — Politico provides anonymity to participants in the survey — are darkly comic.

“To win the debate, all Trump really needs to do is meet expectations, keep his cool, and look presidential,” says one Republican.

A Democrat adds: “The question we are all waiting to have answered is: Can he be serious? Can he answer questions directly? How will he react (or overreact) when he is directly challenged? Can he control his temper?”

So here is where I think we are on the morning of the first presidential debate. For Hillary Clinton to win the debate, she needs to be perfect. For Donald Trump to win the debate, he needs to avoid embarrassing himself.

Do you see the problem?

So, there you go.  But, I think is is very much an open question whether Donald Trump can even pull this off.   I strongly suspect Hillary Clinton will perform well (though, not perfect).  She’s good at these and she’s had plenty of one-on-one debates.  Trump has pretty much never done this and not seen particularly adept at curbing his worse instincts in the moment.

So, I cannot wait to see what happens.  But, I’m horrified that if Trump meets this minimally low bar he will be rewarded with media coverage on a severe curve.

And, because I don’t have any more time to blog today, Drum with a reminder on what happened to Gore in 2000.

Wow. Gore kicked ass! Bush kept sniffing! He also seemed a little lost—a fairly common real-time assessment. As it turns out, Cooper’s prediction was pretty close: Gallup’s overnight poll had Gore winning by 48-41 percent and others gave him an even bigger margin. So why is Gore widely remembered as the big loser in that debate? Here is Alfredo Lanier of the Chicago Tribune a couple of weeks after the debate:

Polls scored both candidates just about even, but that shifted after media analysts picked over the inconsistencies in some of Gore’s statements—and nitpicked about his annoying huffing, puffing and eye-rolling while Bush spoke. [emphasis in original]

Among people who actually watched the debate, Gore seemed fine. He knew his stuff, he attacked without seeming mean, and no one seemed to notice any sighing. But then the analysts put together a mix tape of every one of Gore’s sighs, and it was game over. Gore was a laughingstock.

Overnight polls are hardly infallible. But there’s not much question that the media reaction in the two or three days after a debate can make a big difference. Gore won the first debate in 2000, but only for a few hours. He lost it in the following week.

Donald Trump and raisins

John Oliver nails it. The whole thing is great, but given my distate for denaturing cookies with raisins, I’ll cut to my favorite part of the clip.

Horrible media coverage summed up in one tweet

Via Byron York:

Yes, awful disproportionate media coverage, but damn if this doesn’t say something bad about Americans as well.

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