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Trump wasn’t just terrible last night. Clinton was very, very good.


During the first presidential debate, we saw some of the worst of the sickly little man. As Ryu Spaeth notes, if Trump’s appalling performance last night—which shone a clear as light as we’ll ever get on how racist, sexist, and thin-skinned of a president he would be—didn’t convince voters, then nothing will.

But make no mistake—we got terrible Trump (racist, sexist) who also didn’t come off as strong Trump (bullying Jeb Bush) because Clinton was on her game. She was able to bait the Donald without having to stoop one fraction down to his level—a mistake Marco Rubio memorably made when he tried to ding Trump for his “small hands.” She was thoroughly prepared, armed with lines like her Alicia Machado moment, which was one of the best of her campaign. And, Clinton was even able to spin her infamous Benghazi hearing into a strength, responding to Trump’s claim that she didn’t have the “stamina” to be president with this:

CLINTON: Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.

Trump was bad because he took the bait, over and over again. But Clinton proved she could do what a dozen Republican man-child candidates couldn’t do before her: Put the bait in front of him without sinking to his level.