The recent US presidential debate will have “left much of the world quaking at the notion that the one with the bouffant hair might reach the White House”, said Max Hastings in the Daily Mail. Hillary Clinton may be unlovable and untrustworthy, but she is “rational, informed, experienced”. Donald Trump, by contrast, showed that he is utterly unfit to be president. He lied in denying his support for the 2003 Iraq war; he insisted that the US should seize Middle Eastern oil; he blamed President Obama for America’s gun violence. And when Clinton pushed him to publish his tax returns, suggesting that he had paid no federal income tax, he replied: “That makes me smart.” Clinton delivered “a poised, fighting performance, throwing punch after punch”. “This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs”, who has called maternity leave “an inconvenience”, she reminded the debate’s 100 million or so viewers.
Clinton won the debate, by any conventional reckoning, said Roger Cohen in The New York Times. When Trump questioned her “stamina” – referring to her recent bout of pneumonia – she shot back: “Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents… or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.” In any normal campaign, she would be romping towards victory on 8 November. “But this is not a normal campaign.” The instant post-debate polls and the pundits suggested that Clinton won, said Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. (In the spin room afterwards, Trump was reduced to suggesting that “they” had given him “a defective mic”, and said he would need to “go harder” in the next two debates.) But the debate hasn’t changed anything: the election is still too close to call. “American politics are more polarised than they’ve ever been.” Both candidates are polarising figures, speaking chiefly to their chosen demographic groups: Trump to white men, to the less well educated, and to people in rural areas; Clinton to women, African Americans, and the better off.
Different voters tend to come away with very different impressions, agreed Joseph Rago in The Wall Street Journal. It’s clear that many Americans want change, and for them, the most lasting memory of the night may be Trump’s portrait of Clinton as “the empress of the status quo”. “Hillary’s got experience, but it’s bad experience,” he said. She has been doing this for 30 years, he pointed out, but has few lasting achievements to her name. No one knows what will happen, said Brian Beutler in the New Republic. Trump’s “destruction of the norms and courtesies” of previous campaigns have made this one uniquely unpredictable. “His racism, his dishonesty” and his wild policy ideas have replaced the familiar Left-Right arguments “with a more fundamental question of what American political leadership should look like”. And that question will not be settled by one TV debate.
Clinton can’t afford to sit back and wait for her rival to self- destruct. In July, Trump raised nearly as much money as Clinton’s “big-donor juggernaut”, most of it in small contributions. His rallies continue to draw thousands of people. The idea that he might give up seems like “wishful thinking. A look at his business record suggests that as long as the money keeps coming in, Mr Trump will fight, and if he loses, he’ll litigate.”
If you thought the panic about Brexit was nerve-jangling, “just wait for the reaction when investors start seriously to worry about a Trump presidency”, says Matthew Lynn. Trump, we are told, almost certainly can’t win. But just a few polls putting him within reach of victory “will be enough to trigger a correction for markets”, and “possibly something worse”. First, expect “a rush for safe havens”: ABN Amro has argued that gold could surge 40% on a Trump victory, “and that sounds about right”. Next, expect the dollar to take a big hit: “the one thing we know about protectionism is that the country putting up trade barriers suffers most” – and that is what Trump is promising. Most seriously, prepare for a wobble in China, whose $500bn annual exports to the US now account for 21% of its total. Given the breadth of the threat, it is perhaps no wonder that Citigroup has predicted “a global recession” if Trump wins the presidency. Even “the sniff of a Trump victory” could mean “a wild ride for investors”. The Daily Telegraph
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