There’s no escaping this emotional reality: Trump haters were not-so-secretly hoping that he’d lose it here, and the fact that he didn’t means that he passed what was by far the lowest bar in presidential debate history.
The Donald Trump of the last few days, whining about everyone from Leslie Stahl to moderator Kristen Welker to probably the White House procurer of iceberg lettuce, looked like someone who was capable of showing up this night and storming off the stage after half an hour. Or five minutes. Or not showing up at all.
But he showed up and lasted the whole time. He got a few punches in (although on Huntergate, not really so much). He was even polite at first. My notes have him saying to Welker, toward the end of the first segment: “Thank you, and I appreciate that.” So the right will crow that this was a great Trump victory that will change everything. But in real life, that’s unlikely. Trump had some sound bites, but Biden had more substance, and in key places, more passion.