In a CNN poll of debate-watchers, 62 percent thought Clinton won the debate compared to 27 percent for Trump — a 35-point margin. According to Nate Silver, that’s the third-widest margin ever in a CNN or Gallup post-debate poll, which date back to 1984. Only a 1992 debate between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush and the first Obama-Romney debate were viewed as more one-sided.
Meanwhile, a PPP poll had Clinton winning but by the much smaller margin — 51 to 40.
What should we conclude from these polls? First, I conclude that Americans aren’t fully deaf, dumb, and blind. They would have to be in order for a plurality to perceive Trump as winning last night.
Second, the PPP poll may well be a better indicator. Why? Because, again according to Silver, the voters in CNN’s poll were Democratic-leaning by a net of 15 percentage points. Correcting for this skew wouldn’t produce the PPP results, but it would knock the percentage of people who think Clinton won from 62 percent to a number closer to PPP’s 52 percent.
Third, if the CNN poll is indicative, Clinton should get a good bounce. Silver estimates the bounce would probably be 2 to 4 points. The latter number is about the bounce that Bill Clinton and Mitt Romney received from the two debates that were deemed more one-sided than last nights.
Fourth, if the PPP poll is indicative, Trump may escape from the debate without much damage. That would make him one lucky bastard.
Fifth, even if Trump takes, say, a 4 point hit, the race won’t be over. Romney’s bounce dissipated at least in part because Obama performed much better in the next two debates. George W. Bush bounced back from a poor first debate (against John Kerry), as did Ronald Reagan (against Walter Mondale).
Obama, Bush 43, and Reagan were incumbents, Trump is not. I suspect that voters are more inclined to give a mulligan to their president than to a challenger, especially a noisy and obnoxious one. Still, if Trump can produce two strong performances, that might be enough to offset even a 4 or 5 point hit from the first debate (if that’s what he suffers).
But is Trump capable of a strong performance in a one-to-one debate that lasts 90 minutes? I tend to doubt it. Ted Cruz, yes; Marco Rubio, yes. The loud-mouth narcissist, probably not. But we’ll see.
Finally, if Trump doesn’t take a hit in the polls as a result of this debate, Clinton, her Party, and her cheerleaders in the mainstream media should panic. I’d love to see it.