Hillary Clinton flattened Donald Trump last night.
There is very little doubt even in the Trump supporting camps that Hillary Clinton won the first Presidential debate on policy. But policy was never Trump's strong suit. He is the candidate of the gut voter. That is where Clinton obliterated Donald Trump: style.
By all accounts, Hillary Clinton prepared for two Trumps to show up on the debate stage: one, Trump's natural cocky, belligerent, easily agitated self, or two, a makeover Trump that is more subdued in an attempt to appear presidential. I think it's fair to say, however, that no one has to guess twice about which Trump the Clinton campaign preferred would show.
So when Trump tried to appear calmer and subdued in the first few minutes of the debate, Hillary Clinton did a masterful job of setting all the right traps to bring out Trump's insolent, childish, asshat self.
And boy did Donald take the bait.
From forcing Trump to respond to daddy's "small loan" of $14 million to exposing him for stiffing people who did work for him, objectifying and demeaning women and calling The Donald a racist to his face, Clinton was on her game while Trump looked like a floundering, petulant, flustered and thirsty manchild. From inexplicably defending Russia against hacking into the United States and explaining that nearly a billion dollars in debt to foreign banks is "really not that much" money to astoundingly admitting that his lawyers have spotted something so nefarious in his tax returns that they are advising him to keep them secret and bafflingly chest-beating about being a tax cheat, Trump was in a meltdown mood the whole time.
Donald Trump even walked into some traps of his own making. Hillary Clinton, one can only imagine, was prepared and chomping at the bit for Trump to bring up the issue of stamina. He did, unprovoked in answer to a question about looks, and Clinton landed what I think was her best punch of the night:
As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.
I don't watch a lot of WWF, but that looked pretty close to a knockout to me. The only thing that was missing was Lester Holt counting to 10.
I have only seen Donald Trump this bewildered once before: when President Obama roasted him during a White House Correspondents' Dinner. That was, up till then, the worst hair-day for Trump that had nothing to do with his hair, and this was even worse.
Hillary Clinton made it look easy, but it takes an immense amount of preparation, self-discipline and tuning-out-of-the-noise to do what Hillary Clinton did: draw out her opponent's weakness while herself coming off smelling fresher than a rose.
Think about it. While media outlets were marveling in their own polling universe of a supposed Trump resurgence, Hillary Clinton was keeping her head down, preparing for the debate she knew a Superbowl sized audience would watch. While a good deal of liberals were busy getting worried about those poll numbers, Hillary Clinton and her campaign kept on debate prepping focused on handling a Donald Trump who had theretofore been Teflon coated despite - or perhaps because of - his brass, crude way of speaking. That meant not just being a superbly prepared debater on the issues but learning Trump's ticks and tells, learning how to drag his inner bully out while simultaneously slaying that bully on stage.
Sure, it's easy to sit behind our keyboards and say how obvious Trump's vulnerabilities are. He is, after all, as Sen. Warren once aptly observed, a thin-skinned bully. But thus far, he's been able to bully the debate stage to his liking, and he likely had every intent to do the same last night. It took a very careful, prepared and master-debater Clinton to skate past Trump's usually successful feckless banterism and make him dance to her tune.
It is often said that Hillary Clinton is not the most exciting of politicians. She is certainly not exciting in the 13-car pile up disaster way that Donald Trump is. Clinton has even admitted herself that she is more into the governing part of the job than the campaigning. But if she lacks anything in excitement at all - although evidence points to the contrary, what with Clinton having received more votes in the primary than any other candidate from either party - she sure makes up for it with discipline and preparation.
This is the reason I am not losing faith in her. Polls will go up and down and sideways, but Hillary Clinton's campaign has gotten incredibly good at keeping their eyes on the prize and tuning out the noise. The debate last night was but a small example of how focused, hard-working and prepared the Clinton camp is. The debate showcased the fact that she is taking Trump deadly seriously - hence the long preparation for the debate - and the fact that she is not afraid of Trump - hence the takedown.
And that is how Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States.