The first presidential debate: What we learned

Trump gestures during first debate
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
David Goldman | AP

Brown University's Wendy Schiller and The Atlantic's Vann R. Newkirk II joined MPR News Host Kerri Miller to analyze the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Here are some highlights of the conversation:



"The one new thing that we got was from Donald Trump was...when pushed on policy issues his generally preferred stance on policy solutions was, 'I would stop them before they happened.' You can't really press on exactly how you would stop those things and I think it shows an implicit contradiction because he's also running on the fact that these issues exist."

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"[Trump] is very good at the loss of jobs...and that happens to be a very resonant issue in key parts of the country heading into this election. But when he ventures into things he hasn't done any reading on or doesn't know anything about, that's when he really undoes the ground he does up, when he's talking about trade, or unemployment."

Tax returns


"You have a person running to be the nation's top civil servant [and] I think most of us would agree that actually paying your taxes is where civil service starts. And also with the Trump University we've seen a pattern of his business deals bleeding into the charitable and tax issues he has, where it seemed he's sort of siphoning off funds from the less fortunate and there's been a constant pattern of this."


"People who want a good business person might be attracted to that but people who are looking for a president who is compassionate, who is really interested in fixing the economy, it's kind of a contrast to say, 'trade stole all your jobs and I'm going to bring them back and make your life better' and then, 'oh by the way, when I can, I make money off of your misfortune.'"

Race and the 'birther' issue


"The idea that black people wanted him to produce a birth certificate or question the American-ness of the first black president, that just strikes me as patently false."


"I've got one number for you: Obama is at 53% approval in the latest Gallup Poll...this is the administration that Hillary Clinton is running on to follow. So not only is the race issue involved and the credibility of truth involved, but you're going after somebody that people are deciding that they like at the end of his term."


"We've seen these instances of what people are calling 'outreach' over the last couple of weeks that, to me, just seem to be reinforcement of stereotypes. At the very least [Trump] could credibly claim that he had some compassion. After this debate...I don't know if he can still credibly claim that and I think that's going to hurt him in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. "

Overall debate performance


"I think Donald Trump did very well in the first quarter, sort of half good in the second quarter, particularly on trade -- even his point on crime and the fact that proportionately Latino and African Americans who live in poor neighborhoods are subject to higher rates of crime and are not well served by a lot of the politicians in their communities in reducing that crime. That's a legitimate issue, so he even had some moments. But by the third quarter, fourth quarter he was fading badly and [Clinton] saved some of her best lines for the end. "

To hear Schiller's and Newkirk's entire analysis, select the audio player above.