HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Perhaps the most anticipated debate in American presidential politics Monday night ended as it began: with two candidates offering such diametrically opposed messages that at times it seemed like they were speaking about different countries.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton disagreed over trade policy, tax reform, climate change and foreign policy. Clinton displayed a mastery of details. Trump made his case for being an outsider. He called her “Secretary Clinton.” She called him “Donald.”
How it will all sit with undecided voters frustrated by a choice of two candidates they strongly dislike remains an open question.
Clinton cast the election as a choice between a political veteran intent on helping the middle class and a self-serving politician who cannot be trusted.
“I want to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future,” she said. “You have to judge us. Who can shoulder the immense, awesome responsibility of the presidency? Who can put into action the plans that will make your life better?”
Trump channeled the frustration of voters left behind by a dramatically shifting modern economy and by politicians paralyzed by partisan gridlock.
“Our jobs are fleeing the country. They’re going to Mexico. They’re going to many other countries,” he said. “We have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us. We have to stop our companies from leaving the United States.”
The 90-minute, commercial-free debate was the first of three exchanges scheduled ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Many voters, including in Florida, have already started to vote, and Monday’s big event at Hofstra University in Long Island was expected to draw near-record viewership. Polls nationally and in Florida show an essentially tied race after a long, tumultuous campaign.
Photo credit: Rick T. Wilking, Associated Press