With a clear lead in all polls, Hillary Clinton had to focus on only one thing: make no mistake, no knock-out in the last TV debate, please.

Donald Trump tried his best too. He was more gentle and better prepared.

  • But with his energy of a nuclear reactor and the fuse of a cowshed, Trump knocked himself out with just one sentence. He  would not say that he will accept the results of the election:

            “I’ll tell you at the time—I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?” 

  • Trump always wins, even when he loses. When he is not the winner dark forces must have stolen his victory, like he blamed the jury of the the Emmy Award which he did not get for his soap on TV.
  • What an arrogant statement and a slap into the face of the most important democracy on earth.
  • Trump showed his XXL ego again: I and I and I. 
  • So Hillary Clinton won this TV debate as well.

Fresh from the ire of the previous two debates, both candidates entered the stage with no handshakes or pleasantries.

Both candidates were put on the defensive, Clinton over her emails, the Clinton Foundation and embarrassing details revealed in the Wikileaks hack. Trump over his history of sexual assault and inexperience in policy making.

This was the last chance for Donald Trump to right the wavering ship that is his campaign.

He had to convince the American public that he should be trusted with the presidency, and that his chequered history is something of the past.

He had to position himself as the change candidate. However, after about 30 minutes of the most frank policy discussion seen so far in these debates – on gun rights, abortion, the Supreme Court and immigration – the old Donald Trump emerged, lashing out at Mrs Clinton.

  • He called Clinton a liar and a “nasty woman”
  • He said the women who have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment were either Clinton campaign stooges, or attention seekers.
  • He said the media were “poisoning the minds” of the public.
  • And what will come to be the lasting takeaway of this debate: he refused to say that he would accept the results of the election, if he were to lose. Telling the moderator, Chris Wallace, that he would “let us know at the time”.

Clinton’s success

Hillary Clinton was able to keep her poise through the tough questioning, and time after time was able to successfully change the subject back to topics where she was more comfortable. It was a master class in parry-and-strike debate strategy.

A more capable opposition candidate could have easily exploited this move, but Donald Trump was not able to. The deflecting tactics were on full show when Chris Wallace brought up a line from one of her revealed Wall Street speeches, that she would support a hemispheric free-trade zone and an open immigration zone.

She managed to dubiously claim that her remarks were only in reference to an open energy market but then quickly turned the tables on Mr Trump asking whether he would renounce the Russian government’s actions over the cyber attack designed to interfere with the election. While Trump actually picked up on this and called her out on her “great pivot”, he went on to get sucked into the Russian debate, leaving the questions over the leaked speeches and immigration behind.

You can’t use the same line twice

The discussion turned to taxes, and a predictable who would cut more and who would raise more battle ensued, where Trump went after Clinton on her record of supporting past trade deals. Clinton proceeded to waffle and Trump struck her with the same line he used at an earlier debate “Why didn’t Mrs Clinton enact her economic reforms over her 30 years in the public sphere?” he asked. “You were very much involved in every aspect of this country,” he said. “And you do have experience. I say the one thing you have over me is experience, but it’s bad experience, because what you’ve done has turned out badly.”

Unfortunately for Trump, Clinton had seen this one coming and responded magnificently.

  • She said that while she was defending children’s rights in the 1970s, Mr Trump was defending himself against charges he engaged in housing discrimination against African-Americans.
  • When she was speaking out for women’s rights as first lady in the 1990s, Mr Trump was taunting a beauty contest winner about her weight.
  • When she was in the White House situation room watching the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, Mr Trump was hosting a reality television show.

“I’m happy to compare my 30 years of experience, what I’ve done for this country, trying to help in every way I could, especially kids and families get ahead and stay ahead, with your 30 years,” she said. “I’ll let the American people make that decision.”

On women, Trump really has no leg to stand on

In previous debates, Clinton had taken a relatively light approach to Trump on this topic, which was surprising to some.

However, this time, she pulled no punches. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” she said. “He goes after their dignity, their self-worth – and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like. So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women.

That’s who Donald is.” Trump responded again with the ludicrous line he threw out in the last debate, that no one respects women more than he does. A response which aptly drew laughter.

  It’s rigged!

Finally he was asked whether he would follow his running mate’s lead and pledge to accept the results of the election, no matter the outcome. “I will look at it at the time,” he said. “I’m not looking at anything now.” This of course will provide fuel for the headline writers’ fire for days to come. Clinton was quick to capitalise on this absurdity, painting trump to be a childish man who cries “rigged” whenever a situation doesn’t play out in his favour – whether it be the FBI investigation into her own email server, the lawsuit against his university, his loss at the Iowa caucuses, or even his reality TV show’s defeat at the Emmy Awards. (“Should have gotten it,” Mr Trump piped in.)

“He’s talking down our democracy,” she concluded. “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.”

Overall, it’s pretty clear who won.