In the final public debate for the United States presidency, a little more than two weeks out from the crucial election, Donald Trump again stunned the public with the harsh tone of some of his responses and his personal commentaries about his opponent. In addition to telling Hillary Clinton “you are nasty,” he put a time bomb on the table upon promising to not accept the results of the ballot. This year’s atypical campaign hasn’t stopped providing surprises.
The event in Las Vegas, Nevada, generated high expectations given the result of the previous debate, in which there was no shortage of sparks flying. The accusations about mistreatment and inappropriate sexual conduct, especially from the Republican candidate, were reinforced by other women that denounced the businessman on social media. For the first time, Trump’s teflon effect seemed to break down, even though he insistently denied the facts and attributed them to false accusations made by his opposition and the media. According to all the surveys, Hillary could be between five and eleven points ahead of her opponent. Even some important states that in the past have voted Republican now show a favorable tendency toward the Democratic candidate.
During this opportunity for discussion, Trump, who began his presentation more calmly and with the air of a sensible statesman, became progressively angrier as time passed and ended up giving another of his typical barrages. The most important thing to come up, which remains a worrying conclusion of Wednesday night’s interchange, is the sword of Damocles unsheathed by the Republican candidate: For the first time, the suitability of the electoral system was put into doubt when Trump insinuated the possibility of fraud even before the election and therefore promised to not accept the result until he knows what happened. The moderator, journalist for the conservative news channel Fox, Chris Wallace, who managed the discussion very well, tried to get Trump to clarify on various occasions. Trump’s response was more than telling: “I will look at it at the time...I’ll keep you in suspense.” The surprise was across the board, beginning with the Democratic candidate, who rightly seized the opportunity to put this into question, telling him that “he is denigrating, he is talking down our democracy, and I, for one, am appalled that somebody who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position.”
A good number of the most significant leaders within his party, among them his own candidate for the vice presidency, Mike Pence, once more rejected Trump’s alarmism and opted to show respect for the institution. However, the same isn’t happening among Trump’s followers, who seem to believe without question everything the multimillionaire candidate says with respect to conspiracy theories, which have no foundation in reality but which have now planted the seed of doubt. Much like what would happen in a third-world country.
In terms of immigration, Trump continued to insist on the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico and very strongly questioned his opponent for not having, apparently, a clear plan on the matter. The candidates also sparred on the situation in Syria and Iraq and the fight against ISIS fundamentalists. Trump put a lot of the responsibility for what is happening there on Hillary Clinton for her work as Secretary of State. She countered by targeting his public admiration for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Compared to Trump’s response on Putin’s preference for him and not for her, the ex-Secretary of State’s response was more convincing: It is more beneficial for the Russian president that Trump wins given that he will be able to manipulate him like a puppet.
It’s not easy to predict if the tendencies in the polls will stay on this course or if some fact will come out that will impact what, for the moment, seems to be a given. The electorate will determine in a couple of weeks which candidate it really prefers.