The first presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle occurred on Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. and lasted approximately 90 minutes; NBC Nightly News journalist, Lester Holt, moderated. American people around the country were sitting at their television, interested in hearing the two candidates pitch why they believe that they have the country’s best interest in mind.
The debate began with Clinton and Trump discussing their plans and goals for the American economy. Secretary Clinton focused on taxing the wealthy and creating jobs for the middle class, while Donald Trump changed the conversation to trade deals, and wanting to stop China and Mexico from taking American jobs.
Another question directed towards the candidates focused on race relations in the country, and what each candidate would do to improve them within the country. Clinton followed up with talking about two topics strongly to race: criminal justice reform and gun safety. Trump regarded race relations as a problem within the United States and led with “Stop and Frisk” policies as a tool in dealing with race in the country.
Other topics included the Iraq War, how to deal with cyber safety in the United States, and the use of nuclear weapons and our relationship with NATO. Though, a few short statements made by the candidates most greatly impacted the impression of who won or lost the debate, and overshadowed these policy statements.
Trump explained to the debate audience that he did not believe that Clinton had the “presidential look,” or the “stamina” to be President of the United States. He argued that he had viewed prisons from the inside while Clinton was at home, prompting Clinton’s most memorable line of the night, “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes I did. An you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.” These small, but meaningful sections are often what is looked at when determining the winner and loser of the night.
Most people are interested in one question when watching debates: Who won? Political debates require for both parties to not only explain their own policy plans that would be enacted if they were to become President, but also to fact-check their opponent. More often than not, Clinton found herself rebuking Trump’s false claims, according to NPR.
These factors led to the view held by many news sources such as The New York Times that Donald Trump lost the debate, but not necessarily due to Clinton winning it.