After the most acrimonious presidential debate in American history, both candidates accomplished their minimal objectives: Donald Trump held onto his core supporters, while Hillary Clinton held onto her lead.
In the first debate, Clinton prevailed because Trump was unprepared, This time, despite distractions ranging from the release of his x-rated recorded interview to recent defections by Republican officeholders, Trump was ready to execute his game-plan of all-out attacks on Clinton for her husband’s alleged personal misconduct, her own email controversy, and her more than thirty years in public life. But the question remains whether Trump’s take-no-prisoners strategy is a winner beyond his base.
Two words sum up each candidates’ strategy: Trump strived to be emphatic, thereby conveying strength and sincerity. Clinton sought to be empathetic, just as her husband had been during a similar town hall debate in 1992.
Trump’s rhetorical devices:
Signifiers of straight talk: Time after time, Trump used phases such as “If you want to know the truth” and “I’ll be honest.” The goal: presenting himself as a tough truth-teller and change-agent.