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Debate No. 3

The debate season is mercifully at an end. On this, if nothing else, the country may be united.

As for the substance of Wednesday's debate, I do not have much to offer beyond the conventional wisdom of the punditocracy. HRC was composed, prepared, focused, and unflappable—qualities we like to see in a president. She spoke of her program with a degree of specificity. One might agree or disagree with policies and positions, and it is legitimate to question how she expects to enact any of it if the Republicans retain control of the House and remain obstreperous, but there was as much substance as is ever found in these things. She also effectively diverted the conversation away from topics she did not want to discuss, typically by baiting Trump into doing the work of diversion for her.

Trump was better than in previous debates, which is to say, he lasted longer before becoming unfocused, easily distracted, and defensive. His proposals were skimpy on detail even by the standards of political discourse as he spoke in broad generalities and catchphrases designed to push the buttons of his supporters but not likely to win over undecideds, much less convert those already committed to Clinton, however reluctantly.

This morning FiveThirtyEight gives HRC an 85.8 percent chance of winning the election, Trump 14.2 percent. (For how FiveThirtyEight arrives at these figures, see A User’s Guide To FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 General Election Forecast.)

Donald Trump’s chances in our [FiveThirtyEight's] model are about 1 in 7, and you’d expect a candidate with a 1-in-7 chance to win about one presidential election every 28 years.1 So while it would be a rare occurrence, we’re not quite in once-in-a-lifetime territory.

...while Clinton’s in a reasonably safe position, there’s quite a bit of doubt about her potential margin of victory, both in the popular vote and the Electoral College. (Nate Silver, Election Update: There Are 4 Ways This Election Can End — And 3 Involve Clinton Winning)

I remain apprehensive about the outcome and its aftermath. Will talk of a landslide lead people who are less than enthusiastic about Clinton to conclude that they do not need to cast a distasteful vote for her simply to keep Trump out of the White House? Will Trumpists stay home because the election is rigged so what's the point? David Brooks on last night's PBS Newshour told of meeting a man in Idaho who is convinced that Trump will win because everyone he knows is voting for him. How will people like this react if HRC wins?

Of these matters, most likely more anon.

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