Peter Morscheck in Publishers & Bloggers, Communications and journalism, Marketing Public Relations Consultant • Dale Curtis Communications Sep 27, 2016 · 2 min read · 1.7K

Why Trump Won the First Debate

Why Trump Won the First Debate

Let me be clear:

I’m an American citizen and I’m a Democrat.

I’m a left-wing, liberal hippie Democrat. Ex-Bernie Sanders supporter.

During my brief time in Congress, I worked for Tom Daschle (then the Senate Majority Leader) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (still there – he represents a good portion of Portland, Oregon.).

So, as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat, it pains me to write the following:

Donald Trump won the debate.

He smoked Hillary Clinton.

The reasons for this are frustrating, but they are also real.

False Equivalency

One of the most frustrating things about this election cycle has been the perpetuation of a false equivalency.

As soon as one levels a complaint against Donald Trump (6 corporate bankruptcies, defrauded students of Trump University, changed his position on abortion 3 times in 10 hours, etc.), the other side responds with attacks on Hillary’s trustworthiness (Benghazi, 30,000 emails, etc.).

The fundamental problem with this is that these are not equivalent offenses.

But the media (and the narrative on social media) does treat them equally: Essentially, “Since they both lie, one should vote for whom you like best.”

So it becomes instead a question of optics and of legitimacy.

Friends of Hillary, friends of mine. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but she lost the debate to Donald Trump last night.

Here are three reasons why:

The Break-down

1. Clothing

Neither candidate is stupid.

And from an optics perspective, nothing was more telling than the respective candidates’ choice of clothing.

Hillary opted for a red pantsuit. Red - the power color.

Donald Trump, in contrast, sought to soften his image with a blue tie (traditionally, the color of choice for Democratic candidates).

This fits. Donald Trump, the hard-charging businessman, was aiming for a softer image, whereas Hillary Clinton sought to counter any inherent “women-are-the-weaker-sex” bias by wearing a high-powered red pantsuit.

2. Image

At the end of the day, the sound-bites don’t matter.

Any zingers Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are able to land—while they may be dissected and trumpeted by the pundits and news media ad infinitum – are useless.

Trump won this debate from the jump – for the exact same reason I believe then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin won her Vice Presidential Debate against then-Sen. Joe Biden back in 2008:

The false equivalency.

Trump gained legitimacy in the eyes of many heretofore undecided voters last night simply by appearing on the stage next to Hillary.

The split screen (employed by CNN, Fox and others) gave viewers 90 minutes of looking at them as if they were co-equal candidates, and equally good choices.

Doesn’t matter that Hillary brings with her more than 30 years of public service, including two terms as a senator from New York and four years representing U.S. abroad as Secretary as State.

On that podium, they were presented as equals.

Which brings us to:

3. The Double Standard

The general public expects Hillary to know how to debate.

She’s been doing it for years.

So Trump didn’t need to “win” the debate last night; he simply needed not to horrifically “lose” it.

See the distinction?

The same was true with the Sarah Palin – Joe Biden VP debate of 2008.

In my eyes, Sarah Palin smoked Biden because she proved that, even as a rookie, she could hold her own on stage against the seasoned lawyer, senator and debater.


Trump won the debate just by showing up and not bombing.

He proved that he could hold his own against a far more experienced opponent.

And in so doing, he positioned himself as a far more legitimate contender for the presidency than he was just 24 hours ago.

Peter Morscheck is a public relations consultant based in Washington, DC. He blogs about marketing, branding, and social media at

Jared Wiese Oct 5, 2016 · #19

#16 Well said, @Neil Smith.

Jared Wiese Oct 5, 2016 · #18

#11 Spot on, @Jim Murray. Thanks for a voice of reason.

Albert Gibel Oct 1, 2016 · #17

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Neil Smith Oct 1, 2016 · #16

Albert Gibel. I would firstly argue that your definition of "Independent voter" is a little off. "Independent" doesn't mean the same thing as "Republican Attack Dog". As to the charges you repeat I would request that you contact the police if you have any actual, real evidence of a crime being committed. Clinton has been investigated by more partisan groups than I can believe exist at great cost to the public purse and the results have been universally disappointing to the anti Clinton obsessives. One smack on the wrist for the email server issue doesn't justify the poison that has been thrown her way.
Any senator gets things done by doing long boring hours of working with lots of people and groups toward a common goal. No-one starts and finishes every project without help. Claiming to be the kingpin of everything is no more than grandstanding and Clinton has never been shy in giving credit to those around her who worked hard to secure a better deal for first responders and victims post 9/11. To blame her alone for not creating jobs in NY state suggests that she is in some way the supreme state dictator with the power to force the national and international economy to bow to her will. Clinton is not perfect. Welcome to the club but to claim that she is somehow uniquely morally repugnant or beneath contempt is overstating the case by an enormous margin.
There may well be good reasons to vote for Donald Trump. His campaign and supporters would probably be best advised to enunciate those rather than just throwing mud at his opponent to see what sticks.

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Francisco Lopez Oct 1, 2016 · #15

#12 You are just parroting the right wing nut lines. Never indicted, work horse in congress, Your people in congress denied funding for increasing security in embassies, anyway your own people committee exonerated her twice. I don;t mean to be disrespectful but, what are you reciting is just bullshit I am not even going to discuss. The record is there for everyone to see. I prefer Bernie,I am not democrat, but will have to settle for Ms Clinton. Would never vote for the current incarnation of my former neighbor, who I thought it was nut job from the Democrats to destroy the GOP.

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Albert Gibel Oct 1, 2016 · #14

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Albert Gibel Oct 1, 2016 · #12

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