The most-watched presidential debate in history knocked Donald Trump sideways, but not out of the race for the White House, after he was tripped up by a well-drilled Hillary Clinton.
Riled by needling from Clinton about his family, the flamboyant Republican was forced on the defensive for much of their 90-minute showdown at Hofstra University, and swiftly saw some signs of faltering support among voters.
Opinion polls, which still suggest a 45% chance of Trump winning in November, will take days to fully measure the impact of Monday night’s debate, but bookmakers indicated a four-point bounce for Clinton by the morning, a trend supported by focus groups and a survey of those watching.
Yet if the unpredictable 2016 race has confirmed anything, it is that Trump’s bluster has frequently confounded pundits and resonated with voters. Unconventional outbursts during his first one-on-one debate at times rendered both opponent and moderator speechless.
“That makes me smart,” Trump told a shocked-looking Clinton when she accused him of paying no federal income tax.
“She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina,” he retorted when challenged over sexism toward the Democrat’s first woman nominee.
Briefly, some of Trump’s policy punches landed too: on “stolen” jobs, and an appeal to the electorate’s anti-establishment mood over trade. “Hillary, I’d just ask you this. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now?” he said.