Just 15 days since the first debate. Hard to imagine, given all that has unfolded since. Those focusing on the fact that there is now less than a month to go until the vote should recall just how many news cycles are left, how much potential for craziness remains in this most unpredictable of races. It is far from finished. The good news is that Hillary is surging, and Trump is being revealed as the base and loathsome character we all knew him to be from the outset. Let's hope that nothing significant upsets that narrative in the days to come.
I watched the first debate over cigars and scotch, and before checking in with the commentariat had felt pretty comfortable that the candidates had basically each done what they were hoping to do. So a draw, in my eyes, which favoured Hillary in that she was already ahead going in. It was a pleasant surprise to read that others felt she was the clear winner, and then to see her efforts to get under Trump's skin proved so effective in prompting ridiculous, off-message tweet storms. Great example of how the post-debate spin can come to define the event itself.
The VP debate is never important, so I did not pay attention, although seems the consensus is that an over-excited Kaine was the less impressive of the two. You would think that since Trump was criticized for his constant stream of interruptions, Kaine might have taken a different approach, but alas. At least he was successful in raising Trump's statements, hilariously Pence seemed to be judged the winner in part because of his repeated denials of his running mate's positions. Pretty farcical.
Which brings us to the Hollywood Access tapes and the second debate. I will admit that in the midst of the pre-debate fall-out, I worried (as James Carville did on Bill Maher) that Trump might use this as an excuse to drop out and avoid a humiliating loss, and that this would throw the race into a new sort of chaos with a more likeable and unvetted Republican nominee. I should not have worried. The Trump double-down (triple-down? quadruple-down?) strategy has been amazing to watch unfold. All the instincts of the reality TV star on display - hoping the appeal to ever-more extreme and unconventional behaviour will save him from himself.
But what worked in the Republican primary is showing signs of failing "big league" with the general electorate, if the most recent polls hold up. Rightfully so. I was actually fairly nervous at the start of the second debate, wondering how Hillary would keep her composure throughout. I thought she was pretty solid, and that Trump looked completely unhinged in his incessant recitation of his stump speech talking points. I was surprised to see the pundits seemed to suggest afterward that he had not in fact imploded, that he had stopped the bleeding or such. I suppose that is true if considered narrowly, as seen solely from the persepective of whether he will hold on to his base.
That, of course, is not enough to win a Presidential election. Thankfully. Yet after being lauded for a performance that (although ridiculous and, frankly, outrageous from my perspective) would make Republicans cheer, here we are, two days later, and instead of clearing the airwaves for review of the Wikileak documents, Trump is on Twitter calling Paul Ryan "weak and ineffective" and John McCain "very foul mouthed." Talk about strategery. All the funnier given that the immediate polling released today showed Trump pulling back precisely because of support from Republicans.
It is to laugh, which hopefully we can do, once the remote possibility of his election is behind us, and I can stop checking Twitter incessantly for the next crazy story to break. Trump unshackled is a scary thought in this post-fact climate of election coverage. Looking forward to a sporting break to London this coming Friday, and then (hopefully) Toronto to keep me properly distracted until e-day.