Consider the first televised presidential debate—JFK v. Nixon in 1960—and you'll know who won on Sunday night.
Television is visual. JFK looked great that night. Nixon looked awful. JFK's cool and handsome visage lifted him from being a little-known youngster to being a candidate of the first order. Nixon looked tense and literally sweaty.
On Sunday night Trump looked awful from the opening moments on. In those first minutes I actually thought he was going to cry or fall on his knees and beat his breast in contrition and remorse. He looked old, tired, pallid, beaten, and as disappointed as a kid who has seen the Easter Rabblit stealing his Christmas.
He knows he has been defeated.
At the end of the debate he as good as conceded the race. He borrowed an old ploy from sports: brag up your opponent before the game so the world will admire you for having taken on such a tough competitor. That's why he made a big deal of what a "fighter" Hillary Clinton is. He knows he is going to be beaten on election day and he wants the world to know he went down before a mighty force.
The force that took him down, of course, wasn't Hillary Clinton, She's still a weak candidate. Donald Trump himself defeated Donald Trump. He knows that too. He knows he got caught confessing to despicable conduct and behavior. All three have finished him: the illegal sexual assaults on women, his words about women, and his confessing on the record. (Like they said on SNL, for once he had a working microphone.)
Between the first moments and the last moments of the debate, not much of importance occurred. He didn't ramble as much as usual, whereas Hillary got lured into chasing a few rabbits including joining him in a long ramble about Mosul. Mosul? Hey, it was announced this week that ISIS is virtually defeated in Iraq. Thus it's the ISIS fighting forces that are pulling out of Iraq, not just its leadership as Trump kept bellowing. Why didn't Hillary correct his obvious ignorance of what's going on there? Don't these two read the New York Times?
So it was a poor debate in terms of any educational value. But that doesn't matter. Not in a year of passion like this one.
Trump not only came across as defeated; he also came across as a physical bully. He invaded Clinton's space over and over, hovering above her only a foot away at times. He made a not-so-holy show of himself. Because the campaign scene this year has been full of violence at his rallies and stoked with his steaming words of violence, his hulking presence hovering over her was especially spooky.
And then, of course, he also said that when he was president he would have her put in jail.
Politics by threat? Jailing your political opponent? He has been practicing all year for his Halloween role as Adolph Hitler.
Now, I have a disclosure to make. I concluded Hillary Cinton won this debate in the minds of the voters before looking at any instant-pollings. I woke up this morning, summoned the images from the debate and saw a scowling miserably unhappy Trump and a placid smiling Hillary talking warmly and personally to someone who had asked a question. That person's face glowed with warmth in response to Hillary. And that image was better than any ad that money could buy.
Clearly Hillary won the debate and will win the election.
Because it's all about visual images!
P.S. Just checked the results of CNN's insta-poll: Clinton was adjudged the winner by 57% to Trump's 34%.