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Jim Wright opined on Facebook that Donald Trump was going to win last night's presidential debate against Hillary Clinton. A few brief points:
  • He didn't want Trump to win. He's a progressive, and also has a brain in his head.
  • He was wrong.
Why did he think that? Because Presidential debates aren't really debates, they're opportunities to go over your talking points while simultaneously savaging your opponent - two things that Trump is allegedly good at. Debates of this sort are reality TV writ large, and Trump is a master at reality TV.

The logic of Trump-is-good-at-reality-TV, therefore, Trump-will-do-well-in-the-debates only holds if the first part is actually true. I'm not convinced. Certainly Trump is a popular reality TV show subject, and The Apprentice certainly did well enough. But was that Trump? My alternate hypothesis is that The Apprentice had a really good bunch of editors and producers who took the full stream of effluent that comes from Trump's mouth and selected the most entertaining/coherent bits. It would be like finding lost jewelry in the sewer. Possible, even likely, if you have enough sewer to search.

In his rallies, he has an audience that was preselected to be ideal. Hell, the audience literally attacked people who were present that were likely to be critical. That's the live audience equivalent of having good producers. If you can't control the output, control who has to listen to it.

In short, Trump isn't the talented one in this equation, his producers are.

Naturally, not having his producers be part of the debate means he had none of those advantages. Instead, he was dealing with a career politician with years of experience in rhetoric and dealing with hostile audiences. That the polls don't show a bigger beating really just reflects the ideological divide in America right now.

My prediction: the Trump team will release edited versions of the debates that will show their boss in a positive light. That these will be roundly criticized doesn't matter. The people criticizing aren't the target audience. I hope his editors are well-paid, though I doubt it.

--- post script ---

I wonder if Trump is starting to deal with dementia. The stream-of-consciousness rants, the denials of the lies he's told - maybe he really doesn't remember them. What if this isn't just his colossal ego - it's how dementia expresses itself among the loud and egotistical.
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