First, Lester Holt did not do the best of jobs on the one thing a moderator is supposed to do — control the allocation of time and prevent the candidates from talking over each other — but he did the right thing in mostly letting them talk and let the voters see them for who they are.
Second, both candidates showed up as . . . themselves. Trump filibustered and blustered and attacked Hillary from the left as well as the right; Hillary went for the wonkish support and the prepared, canned answers, the low-hanging fruit on sexism, and the adult answers on foreign policy that sounded like George W. Bush but ignored the actual facts of the Obama years. As I noted earlier, what Hillary very obviously did not do was to try to explain why Trump is not a normal Republican — yet she also did not really try to hang him around the necks of down-ticket Republicans. Both sides ignored the down-ticket, party-building types of answers.
Was there a winner tonight? Not an obvious one to the informed viewer, but then any informed person would run from these two candidates in horror. Some of Trump’s most effective moments were also his most demagogic, on TPP and Iraq and crime. If this debate moves the needle, it may be for reasons totally unrelated to reason.