I was impressed with Hillary at last night's debate. She hit Trump pretty hard and seemed to get under his skin. The first 30 minutes or so seemed Trump's strongest as far as appeal to swing voters. His anti-trade-treaty talk is likely to resonate among some non-trivial number of swing voters in states like Ohio, even though his actual approach would be awful. And he was careful to frame even that in terms of the Yellow Peril. I'm surprised he doesn't use that actual term.
But Hillary made strong points, including jamming him on his dubious business reputation. And she made straightforward defenses of Democratic policies like progressive taxation. And a good defense of the Iran peace deal. Trump's adoption of the old-time hawk-dove slogan we heard all the time during the Vietnam War - we never should have been there in the first place but since we're there we ought to win it - detracts from his ability to score any points attacking her over the Iraq and Libyan interventions. Of course, this is the guy who bragged that he was a proud "militarist," so he's never exactly been a peace candidate.
I think Democratic voters' attitude toward any Democratic President should be "trust but verify." So it seems obvious to me that Hillary was deliberately holding back from the kind of general attacks on the Republican Party as a whole that would help the down-ticket races. But on the whole, this was the version of Hillary I was hoping to see in the general election campaign.
Here are a couple of takes from leading Pod Pundits, both from Atlantic Online:
Ronald Brownstein, Donald Trump's Unproductive Monday Night 09/27/2016
Ron Fournier, Hillary Did What She Needed to Do 09/27/2016
Frank Rich usually does better than most of his pundits colleagues. In How Hillary Clinton’s Pitch-perfect Put-downs May Have Changed the Race New York 09/27/2016 he does pretty well. But at one point he reverts to one of the favorite Beltway press tropes: "And [Trump's] over-the-top facial expressions as she gave her answers were, dare I say it, Al Gore–like in their impatience, petulance, and general asininity. All this from a man who went on at considerable lengths to brag about how he has 'a much better temperament than Hillary.'"
Al Gore sighing during 2000 Presidential debates. The mainstream press corps will never give it up, it appears.
Brownstein refers matter-of-factly to Trump's "blue-collar base" and the "working-class white voters" who supposedly favor Trump. This has become another tired piece of conventional wisdom, based on identifying "working class" as people without a four-year college degree. In practice, our star pundits also talk about working-class whites by that definition as synonymous with Sarah Palin's "Real Americans."