Clinton showdown with Trump watched by record audience

More than 80 million Americans watched White House candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clash in a bruising presidential debate peppered with personal attacks.
Clinton supporters watch the first US presidential debate between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, at a debate watch party at The Abbey bar and restaurant in West Hollywood, California, September 26, 2016.   / AFP / Robyn Beck
Clinton supporters watch the first US presidential debate between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, at a debate watch party at The Abbey bar and restaurant in West Hollywood, California, September 26, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck

New York // More than 80 million Americans watched White House candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clash in a bruising presidential debate peppered with personal attacks.

The record figures do not include online and overseas viewers, who are likely to bring the total to 100 million.

They saw an often feisty contest in which political experts and everyday voters said Mrs Clinton came out on top: a CNN poll found 62 per cent of those who watched said Mrs Clinton won the debate compared to 27 per cent for Mr Trump.

The Republican claimed he had been treated unfairly and threatened to “hit her harder” in the next two debates.

Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, was in a celebratory mood. She said she had a “great, great time” and was “thrilled” by how it went. She accused Mr Trump of making “demonstrably untrue” claims in the debate and mocked him for suggesting that debate organisers had set him up by lowering the volume on his “terrible” microphone so he was quieter than Mrs Clinton.

“Anybody who’s complaining about the microphone is not having a good night,” she said.

Mrs Clinton stormed back on to the campaign trail on Tuesday, energised by her performance after perhaps the worst period of her 15-month campaign, during which she belittled Trump supporters two weeks ago and was then laid low with pneumonia.

“I felt so positive about it,” Mrs Clinton she said as she flew to an election rally in North Carolina on Tuesday morning.

“I was thrilled I got a chance to lay out some of the middle-class economic policies and pro-family policies … but the real point is about temperament and fitness and qualification to hold the most important, the hardest job in the world, and I think people saw last night some very clear differences between us.”

Mrs Clinton frequently forced her prickly opponent on to the back foot in Monday night’s debate as they sparred over each other’s temperament and judgment, trade, the economy, terrorism and other issues.

But in a campaign that has consistently defied predictions from the political establishment, few can confidently forecast the effect when Americans vote on November 8.

Both sides claimed victory yesterday in the spin game that began the very instant the debate ended.

Mr Trump told Fox News he thought the debate went well, but complained that moderator Lester Holt failed to press Clinton on “her scandals,” including the controversies over her use of a private email server as secretary of state and her handling of the attack in 2012 on the US consulate in Benghazi.

“They were leaving all of her little goodies out,” he said.

And he suggested he may bring up Bill Clinton’s past sexual indiscretions in their next debate.

“I may hit her harder in certain ways. I really eased up because I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.”

With six weeks until election day, Mr Trump was also on the move yesterday, jetting to Florida to speak to supporters in the critical swing state.

During the debate at Hofstra University in New York, Mrs Clinton repeatedly questioned her rival’s fitness to serve in the Oval Office.

She painted the celebrity real estate mogul as fatally out of touch and willing to say “crazy things” to get elected.

“You live in your own reality,” said Mrs Clinton, who sought to project her steady experience.

Mr Trump played the populist bruiser, pitching to frustrated blue-collar voters fed up with establishment politicians.

“Let me tell you, Hillary has experience. But it’s bad, bad experience,” he said.

The second debate will take place on October 9.

* Bloomberg and Agence France-Presse

Published: September 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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