The Corner

Politics & Policy

Tonight’s Debate Perfectly Summed Up the State of the Race

I just watched the last 15 months summarized in 90 brutal minutes. Two unfit candidates aggressively attacked each other’s multiple, obvious, and devastating weak spots — and then Trump decided to go ahead and dominate the next two news cycles with a colossal unforced error.

The very instant that Chris Wallace explained to Trump that both his running mate and his daughter had said they’d accept the results of the election, I knew that Trump was going to dive into the deep end. He simply can’t resist looking like the toughest man in the room, and if he can do it by showing Mike Pence who’s boss, then all the better. So he says the one thing guaranteed not just to send the media into a frenzy, he says something that everyone but his most die-hard supporters knows is absolutely cartoon-level crazy — that he’s going to keep us “in suspense.” Yet here’s the thing — you can be tough on vote fraud without jolting the American people. You can say, “Chris, I believe in upholding and protecting the laws of this nation, and that means respecting the integrity of the ballot box and the peaceful transition of power.” It’s that simple. 

Trump is losing, badly, and if he hoped to reach beyond his Breitbart base and nose-holding Republican loyalists, that’s not the way you do it. Yes, you can attack Clinton’s multiple weaknesses. Yes, you can remind voters of her terrible record as Secretary of State. Yes, you can and should defend the Second Amendment. But all those things are just markers of minimal GOP political competence. Threatening to question the legitimacy of the election won’t turn Virginia red. 

One last thing, it’s telling that even when the two candidates were at their best — Trump on life and judges and Clinton on Russia, NATO, and pursuing ISIS out of Iraq and into Syria — we still can’t quite trust their words. Trump has been all over the place on Planned Parenthood, judicial appointments, and abortion. Clinton’s record as Secretary of State help set the table for the present challenge. Moreover, her answer on gun control — claiming that DC’s draconian crackdown on gun owners was little more than a toddler protection act — was laughable. If you’re voting on judges only (and no one should vote on judges only), Clinton reaffirmed every single one of your worst fears — rendering a Republican senate more vital than ever. There are winnable elections that matter. Increasingly, the race at the top of the ticket isn’t one of them.

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