Donald Trump recently said, “I think the best person in her [Hillary Clinton’s] campaign is mainstream media.” The truth of that statement is clear after last night’s first presidential debate where media pundits declared Clinton the winner, but online surveys had Trump as the huge winner.
According to Fox News, the Drudge Report online vote had 80 percent of respondents giving the victory to Trump, and a Time.com survey had the Republican nominee leading Clinton by 4 percentage points – 52 percent to 48 percent – after more than 1,300,000 votes were cast. CNBC and Breitbart votes also had Trump winning the event, at New York’s Hofstra University.
A Fox News online vote had Trump winning with 50 percent of respondents, Clinton at 35 percent and the other 15 percent declaring no one won.
The online surveys are not scientific and, in many cases, supporters of either candidate can cast multiple ballots. Still, the disconnect in judging Trump’s performance was reminiscent of the Republican Party primary, when pundits often said his competitors bested him while online polls put him on top.
Experts say the online votes are a good gauge of enthusiasm, which could mean Trump’s performance was enough to energize those who already backed him.
Experts were near unanimous in finding Clinton was more disciplined and armed with greater recall of facts, but Trump’s supporters believe his blunt style and unconventional background are among his best attributes.
Trump’s best moment, according to Stuart Tarlow, of American Thinker, came when he distinguished himself from Clinton based on their disparate backgrounds. Trump characterized his opponent as a “typical politician,” who knows how to make statements and promises that sound good, but who never actually gets things done, Tarlow wrote.
Most experts agree the winner and loser won’t be determined based on arcane rules of debating. Hillary’s mission was to come off as well-versed on the facts and warm, while Trump’s goal was to appear capable of filling the role of chief executive.
The real test of who won and who lost will likely come in the next wave of scientific polling in what has become a dead-even race. If Trump continues to surge in key battleground states, it will be taken as evidence he accomplished what he needed to in the debate. If Clinton stops or even reverses his momentum, she may be retroactively declared the winner.
Edward Panetta, professor of communication studies at the University of Georgia and director of the Georgia Debate Union, said Trump got out of the gate fast, but then struggled.
“While Donald Trump was strong in the first 20 minutes of the debate he faltered badly as the debate progressed,” Panetta said.