Campaign veterans Archie Smart and Wyeth Ruthven sat down to discuss the strategies and messaging witnessed by over 100 million people during the first Presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. The debate took place on September 26 at Hofstra University.

Smart, Executive Vice President of Qorvis MSLGROUP, emphasized that one of Trump’s main endeavors in the debate was to appear presidential and what could be described as a referendum on his temperament. Did he succeed?

According to Smart, the answer is a mixed bag, as he saw success during the first half of the debate, before Clinton began to needle him into frustration. Smart points out, however, that this is Trump’s first one-on-one debate, compared to Clinton’s more extensive background on the stage.

Ruthven, Vice President of Qorvis MSLGROUP, agreed that Trump’s status as a first-time debater could have had an impact on his performance, although as he pointed out, “No one has had any practice debating Donald Trump.”

From the perspective of a media trainer, both candidates had their positive and negative moments.

Ruthven stated that Clinton fell flat on her trade answers; in this case, the strict two-minute time limit adhered to in the beginning by moderator Lester Holt helped Trump succeed in getting his messaging on the issue across.

Trump fell flat on his tax answers, according to Smart.

It has become apparent over the course of the election that these candidates take radically different approaches in their appeals to the public. The role that digital strategy, big data and technology play factored into the debate, as Trump used the podium to address Clinton’s massive spending on executing strategies that included attack ads. Trump favors a more traditional media blast approach, putting himself on TV as much as possible.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” said Smart, suggesting that it will be a fascinating case study once the results are in and its evident which approach prevailed.

This debate was only the first of four. The next will premiere on Tuesday October, 4 at Longwood University in Virginia.

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