To say that the first presidential debate was a disaster for Donald Trump would be an understatement. While his most devout supporters are clearly in full spin mode claiming that they felt he did really well, most of them are lying. It’s pretty universal, and even bipartisan at some levels, that Trump failed his first big test — miserably.
One of the best examples to sum up just how terrible Trump performed came via a CBS News focus group of 27 undecided Pennsylvania voters led by Republican strategist Frank Luntz. Among this group of individuals:
- 6 were leaning toward Clinton.
- 5 were leaning toward Trump.
- 8 were completely undecided.
- 8 weren’t supporting either candidate.
When asked which of the two candidates impacted their vote more, 16 raised their hands for Clinton while only 6 did so for Trump. While there’s no way to tell which 16 chose Clinton, if you assume the 6 leaning toward her were part of that group, and none of the Trump people picked her, that means she managed to pick up at least a few of the 8 voters who weren’t supporting either candidate — as well as a good chunk of the “completely undecided.” Meanwhile, Trump only picked up one person from the entire group.
Then Luntz asked the group to describe Trump’s performance in a couple of words, getting responses such as “missed opportunities,” “sloppy,” “bombastic,” “not presidential,” and “strong start weak finish.” Whereas when they were asked the same question about Clinton, the responses were “prepared,” “firm,” and “powerful.”
Even when Clinton’s emails were brought up, one member of the group said she at least takes responsibility for her mistake, while Trump always denies that he’s done anything wrong.
Another gentleman said that for the last few weeks Trump had stayed on message, avoided petty attacks and just “sold himself and his plan,” yet reverted back to his petty attacking ways during the debate.
An African American female called him “offensive” when it came to race, while another man said he incorrectly paints the inner cities like hopeless war zones where “you’re literally going to die as soon as you step outside.”
Another lady said Trump needs to learn how to “answer the question that is asked of him and then just stop talking” — a point that most of the rest of the group agreed with.
Luntz then said that most of the people there wanted to see that Trump could act presidential, that he had a grasp of the issues and more detail — none of which they saw from him Monday night. Luntz also said it bothered the group that he kept interrupting moderator Lester Holt, ignoring questions and taking shots at Hillary Clinton. The group felt that Trump did really well at the beginning of the debate, yet struggled badly when it came to tax returns, his answers about race and the birther conspiracy.
If you look at the response from the people in this group and what they wanted to see from Donald Trump vs. what they said about him, they actually exposed his biggest flaw: He’s Donald Trump.
What these folks wanted to see was a presidential candidate who doesn’t behave exactly like the type of person Trump is. Sure, at the beginning of the debate when he was clearly trying to stay calm and collected were the moments where he received the most praise. However, those were the moments where he wasn’t acting like himself. As soon as Clinton took a couple of shots at him, he took the bait and showed the entire country that this more calm, collected version who’s read most of his speeches from teleprompters that we’ve seen over the last few weeks isn’t who he really is.
The Donald Trump we saw for the last two-thirds of the debate was the real Trump who’s running for the White House. The petty, arrogant, egotistical, dishonest man-child who interrupts people, disrespects others, never admits any faults and can’t control himself — that’s who he is.
When you get right down to it, what these voters said about Donald Trump is that they don’t want him to be himself. That’s not good news for his campaign going forward. His most devout supporters will obviously back him no matter what, but it seems that the majority of “undecided” voters want Donald Trump to be something he’s not. And I think over the next few weeks, and in particular after the last two debates, the country is going to see the real Donald Trump — not this fake version we’ve seen reading speeches written by other people over the last few weeks.
Watch the segment below via CBS News: