Third Presidential Debate: Donald Trump Makes History

About 40 minutes into Wednesday night's debate at UNLV, Donald Trump looked to be on the way to his first clearly successful debate performance. He wasn’t interrupting, he didn’t sniffle, he stayed on message and appeared well prepared. Wrong!

Then Fox’s Chris Wallace, who was the most composed and effective of the presidential debate moderators, brought up Donald Trump’s recent assertions that the election is being rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton. He raised the question of whether the GOP nominee would accept the results of the vote.

“Do you make the same commitment [as your running mate and daughter] that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?”

Trump’s response, as Van Jones put it, made history.

“I will look at it at the time,” began Trump, clearly unable to let go of his inner TV personality, hell bent on the dramatic. He continued in a back and forth with Wallace, until he was directly asked: "Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle [of a peaceful transfer of power]?”



“What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?”

What Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand, or more likely he just doesn’t care, is that he is viscerally damaging our country’s democracy by questioning the integrity of 50 individual and independent elections offices throughout the nation.

He has millions of adamant supporters who fiercely agree with his portrayal of the political and media elite. If he actually refuses to accept a loss on November 8, the fallout could be disastrous.

A Clinton presidency looks increasingly likely, particularly in light last night’s debate. Trump did next to nothing to expand his base of support, and Clinton had probably her best performance, with a perfect combination of offense and shunning attacks from her opponent.

She successfully rebutted Trump when he attacked her 30-years in the public eye with a well crafted and practiced response comparing each of their lives over the decades. When more difficult questions about leaked emails came up, she successfully pivoted to Russia and Putin, effectively moving the conversation away from one of the toughest subjects throughout her campaign.

Trump also missed a number of opportunities by not pressing the issue of the damaging video showing Democratic operatives talking about inciting violence at Trump rallies. Nor did he harp on the various positions Hillary Clinton has taken on trade, exposed by hacked speeches to international banks.

Clinton got the sound bites in that she needed, calling Trump a puppet of Russia’s president Putin, which then dragged Trump into a typical childish retort: “No, you’re the puppet.”

In what was the strongest admonition of the Trump candidacy yesterday evening, Clinton propounded: “You are the most dangerous person to run for president in the modern history of America.”

While that might actually be flattering to Trump, who dubbed his rival "a nasty woman," his candidacy likely won’t be successful. “Becoming hard to see how Trump can win the election, unless polls have been massively wrong all along,” tweeted Nate Silver last night.

10 comments about "Third Presidential Debate: Donald Trump Makes History".
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  1. Steve Schiedermayer from Schiedermayer & Associates, Inc., October 20, 2016 at 1:29 p.m.

    Philip - short and selective memory on your part.


    Al Gore, speaking from the White House the week after having lost the general election, explains why he refused to concede the race:

    "The effort that I have underway is simply to make sure that all of the votes are counted, and when the issues that are now being considered in the Florida Supreme Court are decided, that will be an important point. But I don't want to speculate what the court will do."

    Even after facing a number of lower court losses, Gore said he remained optimistic. 

    "I don't really feel" the odds are stacked against me, he said, despite admitting feeling like an "underdog."

    Gore said that his voters were not given sufficient access to voting sites. Speaking of black voters specifically, Gore said he was in regular contact with Jessie Jackson and Julian Bond to discuss voter suppression.

    "I am very troubled by a lot of the stories that have been reported," about blacks being discouraged from voting, Gore said. "Whenever you have allegations of those kind, that is a matter the entire country ought to take seriously."


    NEW YORK, Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- At a private fund-raiser in Los Angeles  for Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan of Missouri, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton  told the crowd that President Bush merely had been "selected" president, not  elected, Newsweek reports in the current issue.

  2. Micah Touchet from NewBirth Creative Design Agency replied, October 20, 2016 at 1:35 p.m.

    Steve, please stop with the facts. They're pesky, and could cause someone to think for themselves.

  3. Philip Rosenstein from Law360 replied, October 20, 2016 at 1:57 p.m.

    Thanks for the comment, Steve. I do appreciate the similarities between Gore's legislatively mandated recount in Florida and Trump's assertions that the entire 2016 election is being rigged. There a couple points I'd like to note on this, however. 

    1. Florida's laws state that when the vote margin between candidates is less than 0.5%, a recount is immediately triggered - see section 102.141, Sub (7): - Florida polls have Clinton about 4 points up. If the difference is less than 0.5% on Nov. 8, a recount is absolutely acceptable.

    2. Gore never said that the election was "rigged," or suggested that there was a conspiracy against him. Even when the Florida recount happened, it was the state that initiated it, Gore didn't even have to ask for it. 

    3. Gore won the popular vote by a little more than 500,000 votes - so yes, Bush was "selected" by the electoral college, and subsequently by the Supreme Court. But that's what Democrats had to deal with. Gore, no matter how difficult it must have been, conceded the election gracefully to president Bush.

    4. Trump says he'll only accept the outcome of the vote if he wins. I mean, what is that about? It's either rigged or it's not. If it's rigged then his win would also be moot. 

    Thanks for the engagement!

  4. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, October 20, 2016 at 2:04 p.m.

    No lie: I must have looked up at least 3 or 4 times reading this earnest but thin debate analysis and churlish comments to reassure myself I hadn't clicked away from our trusty adworld trade to another pub. Nope. Still here. But where, now, is here?...

    Here might be the place where we leave the fumbling punditry to the paid chatterers.

    Here might be some angles we could take digging more insightfully into retail end of marketing candidates, regardless of their egregious lack of merit, value: stuff like phone-banking, big data, GoTV data mining, email personalization, media targeting. Cool shit, like that. 

    West 38th Street

  5. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, October 20, 2016 at 2:10 p.m.

    What about the voter fraud in 1960 by JFK and Johnson that gave them a victory over Nixon?

  6. Philip Rosenstein from Law360 replied, October 20, 2016 at 2:20 p.m.

    Point taken, Thom. With a daily opinion column, sometimes certain events grab interest and plead for comment. If you look back through the columns, you might find some of what you're looking for.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 20, 2016 at 2:28 p.m.

    No interuptions ? "Wrong" "Wrong" And more poisoned word salads that tasted rancid.

  8. Chris Swan from Datastream Media, October 20, 2016 at 5:20 p.m.

    If you read the full text of Hillary Clinton's "selected, not elected" harangue, it was clearly not a scholarly treatise on the Electoral College.  It was a nasty screech at a Democratic fundraiser two full years after the election that furthered the "illegitimate President" narrative.   

  9. Chuck Lantz from, network replied, October 20, 2016 at 5:54 p.m.

    Ron: Are you claiming that the GOP and Nixon played 100% by the rules, and election laws, in 1960? Or are you more accurately claiming that one side cheated more successfully?

    On the other hand, I have heard some say that, prior to the tough lessons he learned in 1960, Nixon would never, ever even consider bending election rules.

  10. Micah Touchet from NewBirth Creative Design Agency, October 20, 2016 at 6:31 p.m.

    I, for one, absolutely do not believe that any election fraud will happen. The election will be fair, just like the DNC nomination process was fair and legitimate.

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