Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:
Trump didn't crash and burn like he did in the first debate, so I suppose that has to be counted as a victory of sorts. But on substanwce he almost literally said nothing. Every question was used as an opportunity to attack Hillary Clinton in one way or another. She's a liar; she loves rich people; her husband is a sexual predator; she has "tremendous hate in her heart"; she wants to put coal miners out of business; she ought to be in jail; and on and on. I think it's safe to say that no one in presidential debate history has come anywhere close to being as derogatory as Trump was this evening. He also seems to have decided that he liked Tim Kaine's VP performance, and insisted on interrupting constantly.
I guess it was something of a Hail Mary. No ordinary debate performance was likely to help Trump at this point, so why not shoot the moon? But it didn't work. He spit out an endless stream of lies, in the hopes that the audience would just be confused. Maybe a lot of voters will be. But surely the majority won't be impressed? I hope so, anyway.
Hillary Clinton was aggressive too, but nowhere near on Trump's level. She called out his lies, but wisely decided not to waste her speaking time trying to refute them all. Trump was ineffective on her emails, and Clinton did a good job of deflecting questions about them. Trump insisted that he never abused any women, and the Pussygate tape was just him making empty boasts. Does anyone believe that? Clinton said it showed who he really was. Trump claimed yet again that Clinton's team started the birther controversy, and twice invoked the specter of the evil Sidney Blumenthal. That's not going to impress anyone except longtime Clinton haters.
On policy, Clinton was her usual composed self and Trump was his usual mess. The Muslim ban "somehow" morphed into extreme vetting. Somehow? He'll replace Obamacare with something or other, and it will be fantastic. Saying "radical Islamic terrorism" over and over is the key to fighting ISIS. On Syria, I literally couldn't understand what he was trying to say.
Overall, this was not quite the shellacking that Trump took in the first debate, but it wasn't a good look. Unfortunately, we'll never really know how it affected him. There will be polls next week, but they'll be responding to both the debate and Trump's "grab 'em by the pussy" remarks. So there's no telling what's causing what.
That said, this was clearly another win for Clinton. She was calm and composed, and got in plenty of shots at Trump. Trump, by contrast, very definitely didn't look like a guy you want in charge of the nuclear codes.
Andrew Sullivan on nymag.com: