The Debates Are Over, and So Is the Race
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because we’ve called it. Time to look to the next four years.
CEO and co-founder of OZY
The third debate was the best of the bunch. Moderator Chris Wallace actually was “fair and balanced,” engaging both candidates on a range of topics. But ultimately, all that mattered was whether Donald Trump would do something dramatic and fresh that would reshape the race.
Reader, he did not.
While he and Hillary Clinton tangled quite a bit, Trump ultimately did nothing that could change the contest. Moreover, Trump’s twin comments —that he would not immediately accept the results and calling the former secretary of state “a nasty woman”— portend the further unraveling of his campaign. In the days to come, his fellow Republicans, the mainstream media and undecided women will publicly rebuke him. Clinton won the debate, if only by a bit. Indeed, the race is probably over.
As we begin our postmortems on the Trump campaign (and I know that, despite the polls, such analyses may seem early at best and biased at worst), a few points stand out.
During Trump’s toughest stretch — i.e., after the Billy Bush tapes — he almost utterly lacked for compelling surrogates, the kind that other candidates have relied on to get through the sordid times. Think Clinton in 1992, defending her husband on the matter of Gennifer Flowers; or Maria Shriver on the eve of her husband’s gubernatorial election, launching a full-throated defense of his privacy. In comparison, Trump’s women were comparatively absent. Melania Trump vanished for a critical week and a half. And perhaps Trump’s best surrogate, his daughter Ivanka, was almost MIA as his numbers dropped precipitously — especially in critical swing states— over the course of just 10 days.
On one hand, you cannot blame Trump’s wife and daughter, and Melania eventually did come to his defense. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Trump’s campaign disintegrated in a brief window — and that unlike successful candidates in the past, he had no one to help him arrest his fall.
The First Landslide in 30 Years
As I wrote several months ago, it now seems that Clinton may be on track for the biggest presidential win in more than 30 years — even the first double-digit margin of victory since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Understandably, her team will sound the alarm against complacency, but there’s no denying it: Absent an act of God, her win is likely to be ginormous. Another unappreciated dynamic: Early voting is predicted to account for 40 percent of all voting, which means pundits could call the race early on Election Day. That, in turn, could lead Republicans out West to stay home, further depressing Trump’s final total.
In the end, Clinton will not match Reagan’s 18-point win in 1984, but she will come closer to it than anyone else in decades, Obama, W. and her husband included.
Will Fox News Fall?
Some folks think that after defeat (and whether or not he concedes), Trump will launch and sustain a serious competitor to Fox News. I am not among them. Still, his rejection by the country, and in many ways by the world, might still portend the end of Fox News — or at least the end of Fox News as we know it. The ouster of Fox News chief Roger Ailes this summer is of course another driver. And should its new star, Megyn Kelly, decide to leave the network next year for another team, Fox will suffer another debilitating blow. But already, many see the dramatic trouncing of Trump as the sum of Fox News’ worst tendencies over the years, and an indictment of the network itself. That perception could, in the end, mortally wound the once-mighty network.
Of course, a Clinton White House could stoke the contrarian flames and end up galvanizing Fox. Perhaps the young Murdochs will come in, clean house and reimagine the network — even hire Jeff Zucker away from CNN to do so. But absent an utter renaissance, Fox News could be in for a painful change of fortune.
A New Dynamic in Congress
We’re not just talking about the potential for a Democratic tidal wave to take the Senate and maybe the House. We’re also wondering whether Congress could, for the first time, see women’s representation surge from its current level — slightly less than 20 percent. Coupled with the first female president, a boost in women’s representation could make the 115th Congress the most active in a half century, when the mid-1960s Congress passed watershed legislation on civil rights and poverty. A variety of issues that have been stuck and stymied — immigration, education, Syria, Supreme Court nominations — could find resolution.
We’re not, of course, suggesting that Republican and Democratic women will unite on the issues, or even that all Democratic women will agree. Nevertheless, the next Congress will likely have a new feel, and be a new opening to reimagine and to reset previously stalemated issues. Watch this opportunity.
And Now, Over to You
What did you think of last night — and the days ahead? Have I called the race prematurely? Could a Brexit-style surprise be in store for America? Shoot me a note at email@example.com or hit me on Twitter at @carloswatson.