Donald Trump fought a dishonest but tactically-effective rear-guard action in a losing campaign. He did not say anything to make us reappraise his fundamental character, competence, and fitness for the presidency. But those who watched the last debate saw a different candidate tonight. He actually seemed to prepare. He actually pivoted. He actually attacked Hillary Clinton at her many, many weak points.
In the last two days, there have been two significant events in the race. The first – the release of tapes where Trump brags about committing acts of sexual battery – reveals something important about the man’s character. The second – a reasonably effective debate performance against an unfit opponent – reveals that he retains a measure of his raw political talent. I suspect I know which of those events will be more important in the days ahead as GOP leaders allegedly rethink their public commitment to a reprehensible person.
All Trump did tonight was live to lose another day. He stanched enough bleeding to keep the opportunists, but he didn’t do anything meaningful to change the fundamental dynamics of the race. He did nothing to show Americans that he deserves to sit in the Oval Office.
Finally, lest any Democrat feel proud tonight, they are smugly cruising to victory behind a person who is extraordinarily dishonest and corrupt. Moreover, Democratic self-righteousness on sexual assault is sickening given the extent to which they still celebrate and defend a former president, Bill Clinton, who occupies the gray area between Eliot Spitzer and Bill Cosby in the annals of celebrity predators.