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Outcome: Biden 306 EV (D+1.2% from toss-up), Senate 50 D (D+1.0%)
Nov 3 polls: Biden 342 EV (D+5.3%), Senate 50-55 D (D+3.9%), House control D+4.6%
Moneyball states: President AZ NE-2 NV, Senate MT ME AK, Legislatures KS TX NC

Clinton/Trump: Debate #2

October 9th, 2016, 8:55pm by Sam Wang

My guess is that this will be surprisingly substantive, and less awful than feared. Don’t agree? Think about your fears. Washington Post factchecking here.

Afterward: not sure I learned much, but I did think it was mildly substantive…at moments. When asked to name a positive trait about Clinton, Trump said Clinton’s a fighter and she doesn’t quit. A somewhat surprising high note considering he also wants to prosecute and jail her. Man, that was bizarre.

Anyway, cake’s already baked — P(Clinton) went to 95% today — but this was important.

Tags: 2016 Election · President

66 Comments so far ↓

  • Ed Wittens Cat

    There is still a lot of sniffing.
    Sniff! Drink!

  • Ed Wittens Cat

    Trump is not debating– he is just throwing red meat.
    One of the panelists said this is Trumps divorce from the republican party.

  • bks

    Watching baseball now, don’t want to destroy my TV.

    • Bill G.

      I’m quickly losing patience myself, and my martini did nothing to ease my nerves.

  • Veronica

    And no solutions whatsoever from him on our nation’s problems. Just blaming Hillary for this and that.

    • bks

      Is Trump totally immune to factchecking?

    • Bill G.

      @bks He’s immune to it so far as his supporters are concerned. Nothing will change the true believer’s minds.

    • ICM


      Heard somebody talking about Trump being “the Dancing Bear” of Presidential candidates.

      When you see a Dancing Bear, you don’t objectively step back and evaluate what a horrific dancer the bear is — instead you give it credit and go easy on it because it’s managing to dance at all.

      That is, in essence, the Donald Trump candidacy in a nutshell. He gets away with things a normal candidate wouldn’t, because he’s judged totally differently.

      So, yeah, factchecking goes out the window. Nobody cares. “Looking presidential” is the focus, the substance is secondary.

  • Ed Wittens Cat

    Trump is just babbling and raving on the Syria question–
    and pissing off the moderators
    i give up
    im just gunna wait for the SNL skit

  • Perry

    Much better than the first debate. I fell asleep during the first debate!

    Mrs. Clinton is very well prepared…. As expected.
    Mr. Trump is actually showing ” learning.” He is still not very polished, but he has learned how to be a politician. I think he has improved since the last debate. Obviously, other opinions will differ.

    I did notice some sniffing….. Allergies?

    • Mac

      I don’t know. It’s odd. He only sniffs at the debates. Not during interviews or stump speeches.

      We are in the middle of ragweed season in the south. Not sure about elsewhere.

    • Deb

      If it was allergies it would not be only in the debates with her. A nervous tic maybe? Perhaps he takes adderall for focus? It’s strange since he’s spent his life in front of cameras so one would assume anxiety would not be an issue.

    • Marybeth

      He seemed to sniff a deep breath between sentences. Perhaps pulmonary/cardiac systems not so good as his doctor claims?

    • Perry

      Adderall for focus? Hmmmm…. I don’t think I have ever seen him actually focus.

      The sniffing could be a medication issue.

      The first 20 to 30 minutes of debate was very poor for Mr. Trump in my opinion. But, I do think he seemed much better in the last hour.

      It is such a low bar for him at this point. He is toast!

  • Vicente

    I guess it could’ve been more brutal, and that last question was surprisingly nice, but that was pretty painful. Some great questions (healthcare, energy, etc.) with pretty vague and crummy answers. Not sure how you can do justice to topics that complex in 2 minute increments.

  • Jay Sheckley

    Watched every minute.
    Like Hillary said, there wasn’t time to correct his misstatements.
    You’re right. Not nearly as ugly as feared.
    :Whew: Fought my fear with snacks, “Bigly”:

  • Scott J. Tepper

    At end Trump said Clinton’s quality that he admired was . . . wait for it . . . her STAMINA.

    Trump minimized his “locker room” “words” which won’t play well with women.

    Trump didn’t melt down, so he won’t lose any ground. But he won’t gain any either. On the merits, on the facts and on likability and fitness for office, it’s Hillary by a knockout.

  • Greg Gross

    The Donald did nothing to dig himself out of Pus*ygate.

    Hillary stuck with policy and was poised, but landed no hard punch.

    Neither candidate gained or lost any more supporters. Total wash.

    But since the cake is baked, I can live with that.

    • Damien Smith

      She didn’t need to land any punches all she needs is for the race to stay the way it is. Clinton has led in every polling average going all the way back to last year. Perhaps Sam Wang or someone else can enlighten me, but I think one candidate leading an “open seat” presidential race from wire-to-wire is almost unprecedented.

  • Jay Sheckley

    “A somewhat surprising high note considering he also wants to prosecute and jail her.”

    He _says_ she should be prosecuted and jailed.
    He says things. :shrug: For applause.
    Though her jailing would be convenient for him, he is likelier to be jailed on the Jane Doe child rape case whose hearing is set for December.

    Say can someone vote on Sam’s Debate Age poll for me? Having twitter prob due to letting it lie fallow since Arab Spring broke my heart trying to prevent what appened to Neda. I’d like to vote for age 9, with parental help.

  • Ravilyn Sanders

    Trump fired up his base. GOP leadership is in a quandary.

    • Ed Wittens Cat

      If Pence folded, so did Ryan
      this validates Dr. Wangs peak polarization theory– no one switchs sides.
      Trump basically did a greatest hits tour which mightily pleased his base
      but he will still lose– there just isnt enough base anymore to carry a national election.

    • Andrew

      I agree! I was just thinking about what happened in the debate in terms of the “The Mythical Swing Voter” theory. If modern elections are all about getting the people who are inclined to vote for you to actually do so, it looks like Trump did an okay job to give his supporters the inspiration they need to stick by him (I hate using that word for what he is doing, but there it is). In other words, we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know about Trump from the debate. Anyone who liked Trump in light of his campaign will also like what he said in the debate.

      But fortunately it seems his base is a subset of the people who vote Republican in general elections. Voters for Trump in the electorate were something like 10% of general electorate voters according to the NYT analysis a while back (google 9%of America voted for Trump or Clinton). It seems like the more he gets his 10% excited, the more he alienates large portions of the rest of the voting population. That’s something that isn’t tried by most politicians, they tend to pivot to a general election.

  • Bob S

    It was like watching a real, three dimensional, flesh and blood human being debate a cartoon character (Yosemite Sam comes to mind). The basic fact about Trump that no pundit seems willing to say is that he’s a know nothing, whose entire message is that everything is a disaster.

  • Ed Wittens Cat

    This reminds me of one of my fav Neal Stephenson quotes–
    “When you are wrestling for possession of a sword, the man with the handle always wins.”
    –Hiro Protagonist, Snowcrash
    the sword is the GOP base, and Trump is the man with the handle

    • Mac

      The RNC Base sword is roughly 6 million voters shorter than hillaries DNC Base sword.

      And a notable number of senior RNC have left the RNC.

      Trump has already lost the election. Now the question is will he take down the house and senate too.

    • Ed Wittens Cat

      yes! exactly! and the GOP will ALWAYS be shorter going forward.
      Game Theory: this was really the only viable move for Trump in the gamespace at this point–
      stop the bleeding

      and officially sticking with Trump is Ryan/Pence only move– the base would revolt. But Preibus may still disproportionately channel RNC funds to downticket races. All parties (except the base) are aware that Trump is almost certainly going to lose.
      The GOP that jumped ship Saturday either always rejected Trump or needed to distance from him because of close races.
      like Ayotte.
      The Trump Whisperer has obviously given up on modulating Trumps behavior.
      Its clear Trumps handlers have given up on college educated whites, african Americans, muslims, suburban moms and hispanics.
      The Univision post debate poll was Clinton 92%.
      But promoting the Clinton accusers seems to be an extremely weird attempt to attract millenial women– on the premise that this is new to them? everyone else is mortally tired of the usual attack points.
      Why are republicans still beating the dead horse of Benghazi?

  • Anthony Shanks

    Is Trump aware that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are in fact two different people?

    • Scott J. Tepper

      Hard to say. He lives in his own reality. One where facts don’t matter.

  • W.Dow Rieder

    “he also wants to prosecute and jail her. Man, that was bizarre.”

    Not bizarre. Scary. Do not want that normalized, 2020 and beyond. That’s how democracy ends.

  • BringBernieBack

    Speaking of a baked cake, how many undecideds do you estimate are still around? (You said earlier in the spring/summer that it was a significant fraction). How hard baked are Johnson’s and Stein’s numbers?

  • Jay Bryant

    This debate will change nothing. The analysts will go nuts on it for a few days or until the next big news event, but very few voters will have their minds made up or changed by it.

    As Sam says, polarization is extreme. So the Presidential cake is already baked. We’re just waiting to take it out of the oven on 8 November. The down-ballot races are more interesting.

  • WildIrish

    Best tweet of the night:

    Mr. Kahn, “I am a Muslim. I would like to report a crazy man threatening a woman on a stage in Missouri.”

  • Michael Hahn

    Sam: just curious what caused the sudden shortening of the red bar on the median EV graph? And what is behind the increase in the MM? I had not seen any significant shift in polls that I could see leading these shifts.

    • Nielen Stander

      Michael, as we get closer, the certainty of the Nov 8 outcome increases, shortening the red bar. The MM must have been influenced by new polls.

    • Joel

      Sometimes the polls take a little while to update. I have no idea why. I think it has to do with the RSS feed.

  • Rick Howard

    Meanwhile, the Peso hit a one month high and Mike Pence cancelled his events for Monday.

  • JPI

    Great point that Trump wants to jail Clinton, yet says she’s a fighter that won’t quit. Crazy.

    • Rachel Findley

      Plenty of bad people are fighters who won’t quit. Al Capone and his ilk.
      Don’t get me wrong, I dislike Trump intensely. But that particular logic seems to work. A stopped clock is right two times a day….

    • striatic

      You can think of criminals as fighters who don’t quit and still want to prosecute them, but hasn’t Trump spent the whole election calling Clinton “low energy” and repeatedly saying she has “no stamina”? He claims Obama and Clinton are “weak” leaders, unlike Putin and the like. Now all of a sudden she’s a fighter who doesn’t quit?


    • Jay Sheckley

      Last debate his biggest criticism was she lacked the stamina for the job.
      This cancels that.

  • Marvin8

    Wow, Pence was given a golden ticket to salvage his 2020 chances by dumping Trump…and he didn’t cash it in?! By congratulating Trump on his performance, I have to assume he’s resigned to going down with the Trump ship forever. Hard to believe that self-preservation didn’t take over.

    • Ken

      Have you seen Dark Mirror, Episode 1 of Season 1? I imagine Pence is doing the equivalent of deciding whether to save the princess or to…. well, just watch it if you haven’t already.

    • Charles

      No one involved in this election will have any influence in the Republican Party in 2020. This election is not a sign of things to come, it is the last gasp of a dying breed.

      The Republicans are looking at the very real possibility of losing both houses of Congress and installing in the White House a woman that they have bitterly fought for 30 years. This is a literal worst-case scenario for them. They’re not going to show up in four years with Pence or Cruz or anyone else even tangentially responsible for this disaster. They’re not idiots.

      This has the potential to be the most significant realigning election since the Republicans took the South in the 60s. The coalition that led them to their greatest successes in the last century is irreparably broken. Their platform of hate simply will not work going forward, but at the same time, softening their stance on social conservatism isn’t going to go over well with their base. Exciting times ahead.

    • Josh


      I actually take a different view.

      The first thing I’d point out is that many of the players on the 2016 stage–Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, maybe even Marco Rubio–will still likely be in national politics 3 years from now. Even if other potential candidates crop up, these people are popular to some degree within their party and I’d wager that at least some subset of them will run in 2020.

      Second, your observation hinges on the assumption–an assumption that, I think, this election cycle has proven to be flawed–that the powers that be within the Republican party have sufficient clout and reach today that they could essentially pick and choose optimal candidates to challenge for the White House in 2020. Given a veritable bounty of damaging information and over a year to wield it against Trump, the GOP couldn’t prevent him from winning the nomination. This is because the longstanding process, whereby a nominee is essentially chosen through signaling between voters and party powers, was broken within the GOP this year. Voters clearly wanted someone the party did not.

      Third, all evidence so far shows that no major, historic realignment is on the horizon. Almost every state won by Obama in 2008 and 2012 will likely be won by Hillary in 2016. Ditto for McCain/Romney/Trump. It is possible that over time, down the line, this will change. If so, it hasn’t yet happened.

      Finally, I do agree that the GOP base that was so successful for the party from 1968-1996 is now too small and too conservative to regularly win national elections.

    • Dharma

      2020 will be strongly influenced by two factors which are not operative today: 1. the movement towards scientific redistricting, and 2. the 2020 Census. These are related.
      Sam and others are working hard to bring analytic techniques to the redistricting process, which should be upheld by a Clinton appointed Supreme Court. This will gather steam in the 2018 election after two more years of do nothing Congress. After the 2020 Census, I suspect that we will see a large movement towards more representative government at the state level, which will be reflected at the national level in the following years.

    • Ed Wittens Cat

      actually, i think the whole republican party is going to have to pay the ransom.
      love Dark Mirror :)

      Steve Sailer and the AltRight are already proposing Ivanka Trump to run in 2020.
      They are fully cognizant that Trump is losing.

    • Josh


      If what you prophesy comes to pass, I suspect it will spell the end of the GOP as we know it, as much of their remaining power today comes from their domination at the state level and their ability to use that power to gerrymander to a degree above and beyond anything we’ve seen from Democrats recently.

      Without an ability to control the composition of the House via redistricting, the current GOP will likely be unable to consistently hold either the executive or the legislative branches, and over the next decade their power will become regionalized, where they will continue to dominate state-level politics primarily in the south, plains, and some midwest and western states.

      Of course, all of this is far from certain, but if the kind of SC ruling you mention does happen, it’s IMO a realistic prediction for the next 10-15 years of American politics.

  • Michael

    Is there evidence that the more scientific post-debate polls have any correlation to the movement of voter polls following a highly watched debate?

  • 538 Refugee

    Trump used his ‘last word’ very effectively. He actually sounded like a reasonable human being for once, even if it was only for the final two minutes. I’m surprised it isn’t being played up even more. Maybe in the morning. He came across as the ‘bigger man’. Let’s face it. Clinton had very little to work with during her time on the subject. Still there is a possibility this will play bigger than we expect. We keep hearing Trump is a reasonable guy in private and this gives credence to that. Maybe the guy has multiple personality disorder? If only we had a neuroscientist to sort this out for us. ;)

    • Tryst

      I was just thinking about that moment and think that maybe what Clinton said about his children really touched him and he decided to truly pay her a compliment. I imagine everyone in Trump’s family has been furious with him since they’ve heard what awful things he’s done and said. Hearing this bitter rival (who is no stranger to this sort of public embarrassment) say that he has raised wonderful children, who I imagine he loves more than anything, might have gotten through to him that she isn’t the devil, but another person.

      -End Armchair Psychologist-

    • Patrick

      When have we *ever* heard that Trump is a “reasonable guy” in private? By many, many accounts — including his own — he’s a serial sexual harasser.

    • Ravilyn Sanders

      True. Trump was truly gracious in the last response. Hillary went for a safe bet, praise the children.

      But this undercuts his main thrust so far, that she lacks the stamina, she is ill and she takes too much rest. Hillary might run an ad, “She lacks stamina. She is a fighter” spliced together. Trump might not emphasize it much. His base is not likely to appreciate being kind an gracious to Hillary.

    • Josh

      I thought this was an interesting example of game theory. If you go first, you essentially get to set the tenor of responses for the question, but if you’re too stingy with your praise you look bad by comparison. Hillary took the safe bet–she went first and gave a compliment that just cleared the bar for acceptability–allowing Trump to look “better” by comparison, but not so much better that it would hurt her. It was a safe, smart choice, in keeping (I think) with much of how she’s run her campaign.

  • Amitabh Lath

    Numbers might go down a bit in the next few weeks because if you squint the MM plot looks like a sinusoid with a 3 or 4 week period (peak in mid-Aug, trough in mid-Sep).

    If that happens it will be ascribed to the 2nd debate because as a species we are uncomfortable with arbitrary, we even draw lines between random lights in the sky.

  • Roger

    Donald Trump’s lurking and stalking of Clinton is what stood out to me. Also, it seemed to stand out the audience at the debate. Rewatching the debate, and looking at the audience when Clinton was talking, you can see most of them looking over at Trump all throughout the debate, as he paced and walked behind Clinton, with shocked looks on their faces.

  • Sridhar

    More importantly she left him and the GOP no material whatsoever to work with for the next 10 days till the next debate. No “bucket of losers” or “basket of deplorables”.The Trump team has to create their own narrative. Maybe this was the goal entering the debate

    • 538 Refugee

      I got the feeling she has made the pivot to governing. ‘Take a deep breath. Accept the fact I’ll be your president and I’m NOT SATAN.’ You could actually see her let some things go. Respect the moderators and move on. Maybe it’s something she learned dealing with the Sanders’ supporters.

  • Scott J. Tepper

    Trump did tone it down in this debate. He is no longer advocating his political opponent be murdered. Now he thinks imprisonment will be sufficient.

    • Sean

      What’s most disturbing is that he thinks that he can govern like his friend Putin does, just putting people in jail for no reason etc.

    • Lisbeth Noelle Rothe

      And, Sean, when did he claim to be a friend of Putin?

      Pointing out someone’s political savvy is not declaring to have them as a friend! It is merely pointing out what he considers to be a fact! Putin’s political abilities are far from being acceptable!

  • Ed Wittens Cat

    mirable dictu…Speaker Ryan is actually gunna throw Trump under the bus
    *Warning! Avalanche Zone!*

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