Vol 33, Issue 38 Print Issue

Inside Intelligence: About Those Presidential Debates...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about the debates between the candidates for president and vice president.

We began by quizzing our insiders on the winners and losers in the first presidential debate. On this one, the insiders were in remarkable agreement. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was seen as the one most helped by the first debate by nearly four in five of the insiders.

Even more remarkable, not a single person concluded that Republican candidate Donald Trump was most helped by the first debate.

Another 2 percent concluded that both candidates were equally helped and 19 percent thought neither candidates reaped benefits from their first televised encounter.

We then asked who was hurt the most by the first debate. On this one, 85 percent said Trump was hurt the most while just 2 percent chose Clinton. Another 4 percent said they were equally hurt but 10 percent said neither one was particularly damaged.


With that said, more than half thought the debates this year move the needle with the electorate with a little more than third saying that the debates won't have a measurable effect.

We closed with a question about the vice-presidential debate held earlier this week. We asked what's the purpose this debate, whether it be the nominees for veep showcasing their qualifications, attacking the opposing ticket or supporting their ticket. Responses were more or less evenly split among all options with the most popular choice being this: Who are these guys anyway?

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached.


Who was helped the most by the first debate?

• "Independent conservatives were looking for an opportunity to give Trump a chance and he screwed up in a YUGE way."

• "Didn't watch. So over this election."

• "I think Hillary's uptick this past week was due more to Trump and Ms. Machado's back and forth than Trump's horrific debate performance."

• "Trump good for a half-hour and then followed every rabbit trail Lester Holt and Hillary threw at him. Critical issues facing the nation, who cares!"


• "Trump was terrible but apparently only lost a point in RCP."


Who was hurt the most by the first debate?

• "Trump failed to prepare, lost numerous opportunities to exploit Clinton weaknesses."

• "Trump has his base and they will never falter. However, the purpose was to increase his popularity and he failed."

• "We, the people, were most hurt. We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't."

• "Someone who's not an establishment Republican may see it differently. Call me old school — guilty."

• "He was hurt only modestly in the debate but responded with more goofiness. He needs to play error free ball to win from here."


Based on what you know now, do the debates this year move the needle with the electorate?

• "I just don't know anymore. I'm struggling to understand this whole election without using something useless like rationalization. Ping me when it's over, I'll be the one helping House friends in Dallas County."

• "Everyone I know is resolute in their hatred for one, the other, or both. I suppose if Trump really steps in it, it could move him backwards, but I've been saying that for over a year. Hillary probably won't mess up."

• "This election cycle has been different in every way imaginable and unimaginable. With a few weeks left, everything moves the needle, including the debates."

• "So many undecideds — if polls suggest 9 percent undecided, this could equal unmotivated to vote. Debates represent last real good opportunities to move the needle."

• "Trump's base (over 50, white, undereducated men) support him more passionately, while everyone else is either moving to Clinton, Johnson/Weld, not voting, or moving to Canada."


What's the main purpose of this week's vice presidential debate?

• "Both veep candidates got in good shots on the opposition. Kaine actually put more fire on the target, but he did it in an obnoxious manner."

• "Expand on their ticket's policy initiatives... except Trump/Pence ticket has no policy initiatives, so in Pence's case, making the case for why he accepted Trump's invitation to be on the ticket so he can salvage some sort of exit plan for himself..."

• "I know a few people who have said their decision will hinge on this, but I don't believe it."

• "Hey, we got two almost 70-year-olds with questionable health. No. 2 could easily become President."

• "None of the above. It has no real purpose. Who started these stupid VP debates anyway?"

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Brandon Alderete, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Blaine Bull, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Marc Campos, Elna Christopher, Harold Cook, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Beth Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, June Deadrick, Tom Duffy, Richard Dyer, Jack Erskine, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Kathy Hutto, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Steve Minick, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Nelson Nease, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, A.J. Rodriguez, Grant Ruckel, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Nancy Sims, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Sherry Sylvester, Sara Tays, Vicki Truitt, Chris Wallace, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Michael Williams, Angelo Zottarelli.