The third and final debate of the US Presidential election season was held on Wednesday 19th October 2016. During this event, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton went all out, trying to convince voters that they were the best candidate to replace President Barack Obama. So who won the third debate and what happens next?
Before the second debate, a video surfaced which showed Trump engaging in sexist – some have even said criminal – behaviour. This clip dominated the second debate, with Hillary casting Donald as a misogynist pig unfit for office, while Donald ratcheted up tensions by, among other things, suggesting that as Presidential he would see Clinton sent to prison.
After the debate, the Presidential election race turned into an all-out dogfight. Over the past week or so, a number of women have claimed that Donald Trump sexually assaulted them in the past – claims he refuted by branding said women liars. Hillary has had her own issues to deal with – namely yet another email leak, which cast both the former Secretary of State and key members of her campaign staff in an unflattering light.
Trump’s recent controversies significantly damaged his national public polls numbers. Heading into the third debate, Hillary had widened the gap between herself and Donald to 48.9%/40.7% in her favour, according to the Huffington Post. Both candidates needed to perform spectacularly in third third debate, which centred on six key issues: the economy, foreign affairs, national debt, the Supreme Court, immigration and fitness for office.
The BBC notes that during the first section of the debate, which concerned the appointment of Supreme Court justices, both candidates stayed on message. Following their party lines, Clinton said she would opt for Justices who would safeguard abortion and LGBT rights, with Trump choosing the opposing stance. They both touched on key policy points throughout the night, discussing vital issues such as gun control and immigration.
But the debate became a total bloodbath. When questioned on her weak points, Clinton turned things around, placing the heat back on her opponent and provoking furious retorts on Trump. During the economic portion of the debate, for instance, Hillary was questioned on her support for free trade deals. Her answer was adequate at best and Trump capitalised on this to suggest that Hillary’s main strength, her experience, was no strength at all, as she hasn’t achieved anything. Clinton responded by saying that while she has spent decades helping people, Trump spent his entire life helping only himself.
The standout moment came towards the end of the night. Donald Trump was asked whether he would accept the result of the election if he lost. For days, Trump has been claiming at his rallies that the contest is “rigged” and he stuck with this line at the debate, responding that “he will tell” us “at the time” whether he accepts the result. Hillary labelled these comments “horrifying,” adding that Trump has a history of suggesting that contests which don’t go his way are rigged.For example, he argued that the Emmys were rigged after his reality TV show didn’t win an award three years running.
By stating that he may not respect the election result, Donald implied that he may not adhere to a fundamental principle of American democracy – a peaceful transition of power. Consequently, many in the press have since noted that this answer has cost the Billionaire an election he was already unlikely to win. Even the right leaning Fox News admitted that with the rigging answer, Trump may have “undone any progress” he made during the contest, as it will “undoubtedly be the big headline coming out of the debate.”
But what did the viewing public think of the debate? They largely agreed with publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post, naming Clinton the victor. The Independent writes that in snap polls taken by CNN/ORC and YouGov after the debate, Hillary won by 52%/39% and 49%/39% respectively. What was truly astonishing is that even the readers of ultra-right wing Breitbart said Hillary beat Trump, at 58% to 41%.
Heading to November
Donald Trump needed to post a spectacular performance in the final debate to save his campaign. The billionaire did better than expected, but let Hillary Clinton shy away from her own issues, such as latest email scandal and shine a light back on his deep failings. By saying that he may not expect the election result, Donald Trump may very well have ensured his own defeat. With the election scheduled to be held on 8th November, he has precious little time left to persuade voters of his suitability for the Oval Office.