The final votes have yet to be cast and Donald Trump may yet pull out a victory in the presidential contest, but the score for the debates is easy to see: Hillary Clinton 3, Donald Trump 0. I suspect his ardent fans would like Ann Coulter to chase me down the street with a Louisville Slugger for saying that, but it’s not even a close call. Through all three of these matchups, Clinton steadily took bases while he committed one error after another.
Oh sure, he had “at bats.” Trump was on firm ground when he hammered her for misleading voters, or her penchant for secrecy, or her finger-to-the-wind standards for leadership. Polls have shown voters are suspicious of her on all those fronts. And as he swatted at her vulnerabilities, she often seemed stiff and evasive.
“Do you have one set of beliefs in private and another in public?”
“Let’s talk about the movie Lincoln!”
And while all those hours of rehearsal gave her a fine command of information, they also made her seem even more like a longtime DC insider; underscoring what Democrats have feared and the polls have proven from the start: she is far from an ideal candidate.
So why did he lose?
Because too often he lurched into a caricature. Squinting. Interrupting. Spouting half completed thoughts and thoroughly disproven “facts.” Every time she baited him with an outside pitch, he swung so hard it took him to the ground. And when she popped one up — which she did, plenty — he seemed so intent being Thurston Howell III, he did not even notice her mistake falling right past his glove.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. For months DC wagered on whether studied competence or swing-for-the-fence showmanship would triumph. These debates were to be a clash of titans. What we got, however, was mostly three sad innings of lame insults, cheap shots and posturing.
Clinton was well prepared, she largely remained calm, and she had a game plan — enough to be a highly capable debater if not an inspiring one. But mainly the analysts all agreed —Trump was bad. And it doesn’t take much to beat that.
(CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of “My Year of Running Dangerously.” It’s not about politics.)