Donald Trump missed numerous opportunities to use humor to destroy Hillary Clinton Monday night.
The clearest example was on Lester Holt’s question on cyber security. Hillary went first and gave a long, robotic answer, hitting all the buzzwords her handlers made her memorize.
Trump countered with a similar answer. But Trump could have crippled Hillary with a single line:
If you’re worried about cyber security, don’t elect a woman who runs an email server out of her basement.
That’s the clearest example of a hanging slider that Trump bunted. He could have crushed it.
I don’t think the debate will change the polls much at all. I do think Trump laid up. But why?
One possibility: suspense.
The candidates have two debates left. Trump understands television. Did Trump lay up in debate one to crush it in a later debate?
Everyone remembers 2012. Romney ran circles around Obama in round one, only to collapse in round two. Round three became meaningless.
Reagan fell eight points after his first debate with Mondale in 1984. After round two, Reagan went on to win 49 states.
Trump might realize that it’s impossible to knock out an opponent when two more rounds are guaranteed. Why not fight to a draw in round one to set up round two?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Trump lost round one. I’m saying he could have creamed her, and he didn’t. He didn’t swing away on the hanging sliders. And he seemed supremely pleased with his performance.
It’s clear that Trump did exactly that he set out to do.
The second debate just became fascinating. And it’s in St. Louis.