Clinton was sometimes over-careful about her language, and sometimes was a bit too explicit in pulling out her particular talking point and prepped zingers. She was on the defense multiple times on her political record (something Trump doesn’t have to defend). On the other hand, she clearly enjoyed leaping on some Trump weaknesses (the birther debate, his foreign policy items), and effectively hit on them.
Trump … seemed subdued early on, later hitting his stride, but his constant frowns and glares and harrumphs didn’t serve him, and when he grabbed his rebuttals and as the debate wore on, he was … well, pretty darned incoherent, jumping from thought to point to zinger to other thought in different directions that sounded odd and will read really badly. His claims to record of being the top negotiator, the top businessman, the top CEO for the country, simply didn’t seem to be able to sustain that image.
I’ll add that Trump seemed to be defensive too many times. He felt like he was protecting his past actions too often, with weird asides to take attention away from them.
Trump’s big attack was on Clinton’s presidential
appearance temperament. The irony is that he came across as rambling, uncontrolled, unable to power his way through, dropping back into some of his standard (and discredited) effects, while Clinton came across as … well, poised and controlled (and gleeful over his stepping onto the land mines that had been carefully placed).
I can’t see this as having gained Trump, any votes. I don’t know that it lost him any, but he gained zero traction, and I think it will impact any momentum he had left. Clinton looked, for the most part, confident, powerful, thoughtful, and ready to assume the Presidency. Trump didn’t.
Lester Holt, to me, did a pretty good job moderating — he called people (mostly Donald) on some facts, and balanced keeping things into the time schedule vs being rude.
Donald was sniffing a lot (appears he picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue). While cynics might suggest he did a couple of lines before coming on stage, I suspect he was just suffering from a cold / allergy / something that both took away from the whole “stamina” attack. It would be ironic if, after all the Trump-forced debate over her health, it was his own health condition that affect him.)
Some liberal commentators wonder if Trump will pull out of the future debates. I have no idea — it depends on whether his ego forces him to pull back from an unexpectedly bloodied nose, or whether he forces himself forward to redeem the Trump brand. We will see.