Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Monday emerged as the “clear winner” after the second United States presidential debate, according to polls that did credit her Republican rival Donald Trump for “exceeding expectations”.
A CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers showed a clear victory for Clinton, with 57 per cent saying Clinton won as opposed to 34 per cent for Trump.
CNN said the polls suggest a strong showing for Clinton, but not as good as her performance at the first presidential debate, when 62 per cent of debate watchers said she won.
The results also track closely with watchers’ pre-debate preference -- 58 per cent of debate watchers said they were supporting Clinton before the debate.
A CNN/ORC poll conducted after the September 27 showdown between the two presidential nominees in the first of the three debates had also shown Clinton as the clear winner, with nearly 62 per cent of voters supporting her as compared to Trump, who was deemed winner by only 27 per cent.
According to YouGov’s post-debate poll, which interviewed 812 registered voters who watched today’s debate, Clinton won the debate with 47 per cent against Trump’s 42 per cent.
It said Clinton narrowly won undecideds’ 44 per cent to 41 per cent. She was also considered “more presidential” by a 57 per cent to 31 per cent margin.
The poll said there was a gender gap, with women thinking Clinton won by 50-38 per cent, while men thought Trump won by 46-43 per cent.
According to the poll, 71 per cent said Trump interrupted more often, compared to 7 per cent for Clinton.
The New York Times, in a quick editorial after the debate, said Trump went “low” in the penultimate debate.
“Trump fell back on the tricks he has learned from his years in pro wrestling and reality television, making clear how deep his cynicism goes and how little regard he has for his party, let alone the presidency,” it said.
The editorial added that during the debate, Trump “struggled” to construct coherent statements of his own policies, “wandering down strange, shadowy alleyways as he pursued his various claims about Clinton”, including that she, not he, was responsible for his birther lie about US President Barack Obama.
“Once again, as he flailed, he whined that the moderators were ganging up on him and failing to question Clinton about her private e-mail server -- immediately after they had done just that,” it said.
An analysis in The Washington Post listed Clinton as the winner and Trump as the loser.
It said Clinton emerged the winner because she went into the debate with “massive momentum in the race -- much of it caused by Trump’s stumbles -- and didn’t make any sort of glaring error that would allow the Republican back into the contest”. “She was steady, knowledgeable and pleasant -- even in the face of some very personal attacks -- throughout. And she let Trump talk, which, as has been the case since he got into the race, is always his undoing,” it said.
On Trump, the Post analysis said while he was much “more solid and energetic” in this debate than in the first one, he was still his “own worst enemy”.
“Trump won the debate among the Republican base that has longed for a candidate who would stand up to the Clintons without fear of reprisal. The problem for Trump is that we know from polling that his base isn’t nearly large enough to win an election,” it said.
In a post-debate analysis, the Los Angeles Times said Clinton had emerged the winner of the second debate, a 90-minute town-hall style session where the candidates could move around the debate floor as they answered questions from a pre-selected audience.
It said Clinton “was knowledgeable” on policy matters and handled criticisms about her emails, her characterisation of half of Trump’s supporters as ‘deplorables’ and other matters “more deftly” than Trump dealt with a whole range of questions.
“It seems unlikely that he will benefit in any meaningful way from tonight’s debate, and it’s very possible she will benefit,” it said.
It added that “nothing that happened over the debate’s 90 minutes” seems likely to wipe away the multiple problems that have enveloped Trump’s campaign since these two last met on a debate stage; “it may have made them worse”.
It added that Clinton did a “better job” of laying out her policies and at arguing that her 30-year record proves that she can get things done.
“Trump, bent on relentless attacks, rarely remembered to explain his own policies or how he would be more effective.
“Bottom line: This wasn’t a game-changer -- which means it was a victory for Clinton. She’s ahead; she doesn’t need the game to change. Trump’s the candidate who needed to alter the direction of the race, and nothing he said or did suggests that he achieved that goal,” the LA Times said.
Graph: Reuben N V/Rediff.com