Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tonight were featured in a “Forum” moderated by Matt Lauer, consisting of back to back appearances by each (never on stage at the same time). The setting was an aircraft carrier in New York, the audience and questioners were military, representing all U.S. services.
My analysis is less about content than it is about influence, and potential impact on polls. Yes, our egos are large and we think we can predict this.
Hillary Clinton -5
This was the worst possible scenario for Hillary Clinton.
1) She lost the coin flip and had to go first. This is a huge disadvantage since it means she would not be able to respond to any attacks Trump might make.
2) An aircraft carrier is unlike any normal studio you might find (I’ve been on one), and seemed to have some strange echo effects.
3) She was surrounded by military personnel, who according to the latest polls are heavy supporters of Trump.
4) The media has heavily covered her unsecure email, a special sore spot for a military audience.
In my opinion, her performance was very poor in contrast to Trump’s. Her voice was shrill and lecturing, she frequently talked over Matt Lauer, and actually stood up from her chair to speak, turning her back on Lauer. A slight undertone of nervousness, interspersed with a bit of haughtiness.
Matt Lauer should have been Hillary’s greatest asset. He is of a liberal bent, and people love him. A cordial showing with Matt would have helped a lot. However Hillary bulled over his questions and refused to let him set a rhythm. It was not the smooth and confident performance it could have been.
The first 10 of her 25 minutes of air time was focused on the unsecure email server, with military personnel asking the questions we all wanted to ask.
Clinton’s response to the questions of compromised security might fool most of America but clearly did not fool the military folks present.
She actually touted her experience in maintaining security as a Senator and Secretary of State, and stated that none of the classified material contained “headers” for classified information.
Of course everyone in the room knew that as Secretary of State she should have recogized the security marks and moreover Hillary was a “classifying authority” so her comments and communications about anything classified, became classified. Her characterization as experienced in security is the only new content of the forum, so it may get some focus.
I believe she did allay fears about her health, which has been the subject of press speculation. I don’t believe she met her other goal to answer questions and put the email compromise behind her. She appears to have created even more contradictions with this performance.
Donald Trump +5
Donald Trump on the other hand had a great many advantages.
1) He won the coin toss and went last, so he was able to respond to any provocations from Hillary’s earlier session.
2) He was surrounded by military, polls say the military favors Trump overwhelmingly.
3) No focus on any particular scandal.
Trump was clearly at ease with Matt Lauer, never left his chair, confident, comfortable and classic Trump style. He could have easily been interpreted as “presidential.”
Matt Lauer actually asked the worst of the questions, which were minor in comparison to Hillary’s email questions.
Trump easily handled questions about a media observed tendency to make insulting remarks. Questions from the military audience, while lacking somewhat in detail were perhaps better defined than Hillary’s answers.
Again the only new content in the entire forum was Hillary’s characterization of herself as experienced in security. I believe this will work against her.
In my opinion, Trump was the victor by far. Hillary not only had some severe disadvantages, she handle herself badly, the optics were against her. Trump scores well because he easily handled a liberal commentator and maintained his Trump persona.