Instead, Clinton, was relaxed and showed a decency of temperament, while nimbly getting in digs). And Donald Trump was really Donald Trump: no polish, no gloss, no best behavior. As Vox's Emily Crockett and Sarah Frostenson noted, "Trump interrupted Clinton 25 times in the first 26 minutes of the debate." He was seething, peevish, and self-pitying. He was awful. According to multiple polls and focus groups, Clinton won decisively.
What happened? I think what BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins wrote yesterday could be the key:
... as the race has narrowed, [Kellyanne] Conway has emerged in the popular imagination of politicos and pundits as the deft handler who’s finally succeeded in domesticating Trump.If that's true, then Trump's debate prep -- such as it was -- was a real sausagefest. Here was Trump's debate team, according to The New York Times:
... Interviews this week with more than half a dozen GOP sources close to the campaign suggest her “Trump-whisperer” status is more made-for-TV myth than reality.
“She’s there to go on MSNBC or Fox, or whatever. That’s sort of her job. They think she’s good on TV, and they like having her there as the face of the campaign,” said one source with knowledge of the strategy.
“The narrative that Kellyanne is a woman genius and saving Trump helps him as he runs against a woman ... [but] Kellyanne spends nearly 100% of her time on TV. That’s her role,” said another Republican who is close to Conway.
Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive; Ms. Conway; former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; Stephen Miller, a policy adviser; Jason Miller, a communications adviser; Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army officer; and Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law.Bannon and Giuliani and Christie and General Flynn (the guy who reportedly had to be told to be quiet after he repeatedly interrupted Trump's intelligence briefing)? With contributions from Ailes? If Conway was only as involved as the Coppins story suggests, then debate prep must have been like an ugly night at a Wall Street-area strip club. Even if she was significantly involved, she was greatly outnumbered by a lot of men who spend a disproportionate amount of their time calculating the precise angle of theit territory-marking urine streams.
The former Fox News executive Roger Ailes has not been at the last two debate sessions, but he sends memos and speaks to Mr. Trump.
Well, excellent job, gents.
How many women watching now are remembering men in their lives who yelled at them wouldn't let them talk? #Debates2016— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) September 27, 2016
Trump needs to attract more married white women votes to win. Not sure how acting like their first husband with an anger problem helps here.— Dean C ن (@constans) September 27, 2016
"ooh, you know who would make a good president?"— Jen Doll (@thisisjendoll) September 27, 2016
"a grown man who just says 'WRONG!' when he disagrees with anything."
Trump unleashed everything he's been restraining in recent weeks -- weeks in which he's been narrowing the poll gap. I don't know who talked him into that restraint -- maybe it was Conway, maybe it was Ivanka. Who knows? But the boys in debate camp reinforced his sense that he should be truly himself while debating. As a Democrat, I say: thank you, boys. I wish there could be a debate every week between now and November. And I hope you guys keep offering Trump your wise counsel.