Candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton squared off Wednesday night at the third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas, moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, with the Democratic nominee enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls entering the showdown.
By many current assessments, it is Clinton’s election to lose. Trump, on the other hand, has been fighting to recover for diminished Republican support as well as his well-noted “woman problem.”
Republican strategists had hoped to to see an even-keeled Trump — a calm, collected candidate that would hammer Clinton on her emails, left-leaning policies, and perceived lack of trustworthiness. In the beginning of the debate they got their wish.
“In the opening minutes on Wednesday night, Trump seemed a different candidate from the Trump of the first two debates and the unshackled Trump on the campaign trail,” wrote Washington Post correspondent Dan Balz. “He was more subdued, more focused on policy and substance, effective in making the case for himself and against his opponent. He appeared to have disciplined his worst instincts.”
Trump landed a blow regarding the transparency and conflict of interest at the Clinton Foundation, and the former Secretary of State’s stumble was noticeable.
“Everything I did as secretary of state was in furtherance of our country’s interests and our values,” Clinton said. “The State Department has said that. I think that’s been proven, but I am happy, in fact, I am thrilled to talk about the Clinton Foundation because it is a world-renowned charity and I am so proud about the work that it does.”
“Secretary Clinton, respectfully, this is an open discussion, I understand the specific question went to ‘pay for play,'” Wallace responded. “Do you want to talk about that?”
“It’s a criminal enterprise. Saudi Arabia giving $25 million, Qatar, all of these countries,” Trump cut-in. “These are people that kill women and treat women horribly and yet you take their money.”
However, Trump seemed to lose his earlier composure as the debate wore on. He interrupted the moderator frequently and began peppering Clinton with the word “wrong” or denying he had said certain quotes.
For many, the most notable moment in the debate, and the one sure to get the most press, was Trump’s response to whether or not he will accept the results of the election.
“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said about conceding if he loses Nov. 8. “I will keep you in suspense.”
Chris Wallace re-phrased the question, but Trump’s answer remained the same.
For the most part, Clinton’s performance seemed benign and repetitive from the previous debates. She frequented the subject of women’s rights, as well as the keywords “families”, “children” and the “middle class.” The candidates also traded barbs over how best to deal with with ISIS, as well as entitlement programs.
Towards the end of the 90 minutes, Trump made more headlines when he interrupted Clinton to call her “such a nasty woman” in response to her about potential tax history.
With the election now only 18 days away, the number of undecided voters grows smaller and smaller. Early voting is already underway in many states, and it remains to be seen what, if any, effect the last debate will have on voters.
Watch highlights from Wednesday night’s debate below:
[MSNBC] [Washington Post] [Business Insider] [New York Times] [CNN] [The Guardian] [The Telegraph] [Photo courtesy Drew Angerer/Getty Images via Fortune]