The first of three 2016 presidential debates was held on Sept. 26 with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton taking the stage at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y. The two presidential candidates clashed over the topics of taxes, national defense, healing racial relations, and many more controversial national issues. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt asked the questions and attempted to moderate both Trump and Clinton as the debate dragged on, with both candidates attacking each other’s platforms throughout the night.
Holt was seen as a partisan moderator as he failed to ask pressing questions to Clinton and seemed to only target Trump. Holt, for instance, referenced Trump’s inability to accept President Obama as a U.S. Citizen for many years despite the release of his birth certificate in 2011 stating that the President was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Trump brushed off this accusation stating “nobody was caring much about it,” and called for a return to the primary debate topics.
Additionally, Holt would press Trump, as many Democrats have been doing for months, to get the billionaire business owner to release his tax returns to the public. Trump stated that he will release his returns as soon as the audit by the government is concluded, despite there being nothing to stop him from releasing his returns now. Presidential candidates are usually expected to release their tax returns as a way to show who the candidate owes money to and how that can affect their policies once becoming president. Clinton would speculate during the debate that Trump refuses to release his tax returns because “…he had paid nothing in federal taxes…”, and that perhaps Trump is lying about his wealth, and that he also owes money to Wall Street bankers. Trump would respond to her accusation that he pays no taxes with “that makes me smart.”
Trump assaulted Clinton’s platform multiple times, the most explosive moments being when Trump claimed that the strategy to defeat ISIS was plain to see on her website, which he claims that she’s “…telling the enemy everything you [Clinton] want to do.” Clinton responded simply by saying “no, [I’m] not,” failing to give a substantial answer to this accusation. On the issue of ISIS and national defense, Clinton’s website does have a plan, but it mostly entails general ideas and actions rather than the intricate procedures of getting the plan accomplished.
Another fascinating moment was when Trump addressed Clinton’s highly controversial private email server, saying “why did she delete 33,000 emails?” to which she ultimately responds with “it was a mistake and I take responsibility for that.” Trump, however, was not satisfied and fired back with “that was more than a mistake. That was done purposefully…I think it’s disgraceful.”
It is estimated by C-SPAN and CNN that well over 100 million people watched the debate, marking it the most watched presidential debate in history. According to a post-debate poll conducted by CNN, 62 percent of debate-watchers stated Clinton won, with 27 percent claiming Trump won. Despite this, political analysts conclude that because of the highly partisan nature of this election, it is unlikely that either Clinton or Trump will gain any new supporters and likely were just able to solidify support they already incurred before the debate. Highly contested and important states to win such as
Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania continue to be highly deadlocked between the two candidates with either of them polling by just a hair over the other.
The next presidential debate will be taking place on Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. In the meantime, voters can also watch the debate between the two vice presidential nominees, Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, and Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate, on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at Longwood University, Va. The third and final presidential debate will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.