Right- and left-leaning pundits split over whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton won Sunday night’s second presidential debate, but most agreed that while the Republican nominee performed stronger than during the pair’s first faceoff, he likely did little to gain new supporters.
Meanwhile, Clinton criticized her rival for what she said was “an avalanche of falsehoods” leveled at her during the town hall-style event at Washington University in St. Louis. Trump surrogates gathered in the post-debate “spin room” said she failed to shed enough light on several controversies.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a prominent Trump surrogate, told MSNBC that Clinton “didn’t answer the key question” about the missing emails from the private server she used as secretary of state.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told the network he dominated the debate.
“It was a great format for him,” she said of the more relaxed debate. “He gets oxygen from the people.”
Clinton told reporters aboard her plane that none of Trump’s attacks — including a surprise news conference just before the debate that included women who have accused her husband of sexual assault — surprised her.
Michael Smerconish, an independent commentator on CNN’s political panel, called the debate for Trump as “not a knockout, but his night on points.”
He added, however, that the real estate mogul had a “missed opportunity” when he didn’t connect with a Muslim woman and black man who asked questions.
“I can’t see that there was any outreach,” said Smerconish, a radio host, adding that Trump’s arguments amounted to a “greatest hits reel for the 14 million who voted for him.”
David Axelrod, a Democratic strategist who formerly worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign, agreed: “I think that he was speaking to the base, and I think the base was very happy.”
Axelrod, also a CNN panel member, said Clinton struggled when defending the controversies that are haunting her, including her use of a private email server as secretary of state and leaked excerpts of her high-paying speeches to Wall Street.
He said Trump’s handling of the leaked audio from 2005, in which he spoke about groping women, was “nearly disastrous,” but said the candidate was more animated and a better counterpuncher than in the first debate.
Trump on the debate stage apologized for his comments on the tape, but repeatedly characterized them as “locker room talk.”
On MSNBC, Democratic strategist James Carville, who worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, said Trump had not helped himself when it came to winning over swing voters.
“He didn’t convince a single person that’s not already with him,” he said, predicting that Trump would get “slaughtered” by fact-checkers. Carville also characterized Trump’s looming behind Clinton while she spoke as a bad visual.
On Fox News, Laura Ingraham, a syndicated radio host and Trump supporter, said her candidate did well to minimize the debate focus on the audio on which he boasted about using his fame to woo women.
She called the debate a “referendum on Hillary Clinton’s tenure in public life,” specifically her economic and foreign policies.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, congratulated him on Twiiter for a “big debate win.”
During the debate, Trump split with his vice presidential pick on the issue of Syria. He said “I disagree” when read Pence’s position that the United States must act with strength against Russia for its role in the Aleppo humanitarian crisis. Trump said he believes Russia could help eliminate the Islamic State.