Reaction to the first presidential debate of the 2016 election was swift and decisive, with news outlets and social media lighting up with opinions rating the performance of the two candidates.
“[A] very surreal event,” said NBC’s Chuck Todd of Monday night’s debate adding that it “was not something that looked like any other presidential debate we’ve witnessed in the modern era.”
Trump dominated social media during and after the debate – including both praise and criticism – with 79% of debate-oriented conversations on Facebook focusing on the Republican contender. On Twitter, 62% of conversations centered on Trump, compared to 38% which focused on Clinton.
In terms of performance, however, 62% of Americans watching the debate believe Clinton won, with just 27% saying Trump emerged victorious, according to a CNN/ORC poll published early Tuesday morning.
While many internet polls showed Trump besting Clinton in their first one-on-one, the ORC poll is the first scientific poll using traditional telephone interviews to be published after the debate.
A Public Policy Polling survey also showed most Americans believe Clinton won the debate, albeit by a narrower margin. According to PPP, 50% of viewers say Clinton performed better, compared to 41% who say Trump came out on top.
Pundits tended to agree with this assessment, giving Clinton the edge, arguing that while Trump performed well during the first half of the debate, Clinton bested him in the second.
“First half: Trump. Second half: Clinton,” tweeted NationalReview’s Jonah Goldberg.
“Trump started strong,” wrote Fox News commentator Bernard Goldberg. “But he can’t run from his past – Birther, tax returns.”
While Trump’s jabs on trade and Clinton’s waffling on the Trans-Pacific Partnership won him points early on in the debate, Clinton baited him on his past support of birtherism and derogatory comments towards women in the second half.
Ron Fournier of the National Journal slammed Trump after the debate, suggesting Clinton may have sealed up the election during the hour-and-a-half event.
“Donald Trump lost his cool and maybe the race, taking bait coolly served by Hillary Clinton.”
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer was less charitable to Clinton, calling the debate “something like a draw,” adding that a “draw goes to the challenger” – giving a slight advantage to Trump.
A focus group convened by Republican analyst Frank Luntz and made up primarily of Trump supporters gave the win to Clinton by a margin of 16 to 6.
Even Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway gave a muted response when asked to rate the candidate’s respective performances.
“I’d give them both a satisfactory,” saying the 90-minute event seemed to pass by too quickly.
Pundits noted that while Clinton baited Trump with comments regarding his past positions on the Iraq war and birtherism, Trump made little mention of Clinton’s email scandal or the 2012 Benghazi attacks and subsequent investigation.
“Slightly surprised no mention of Benghazi from Trump,” tweeted MSNBC’s Christopher Hayes.
“Strong performance by both candidates. But he was on defensive & didn’t get time w/Benghazi, emails & immigration & she attacked throughout,” Geraldo Rivera tweeted.
The two candidates are set to faceoff again at Washington University in St. Louis on October 9th, following the vice-presidential debate on October 4th at Longwood University in Virginia.