A record 84 million people watched the first presidential debate but Donald Trump, who is usually excited by TV ratings, spent the day after complaining about his microphone and unfair questions from the moderator.
He defended his offensive remarks about Alicia Machado, the 1996 Miss Universe, whom he once called “Miss Piggy”, as Hillary Clinton reminded him at the debate, for gaining weight, and “Miss Housekeeping” for her Hispanic background.
Trump claimed victory citing online polls, but may be trying to convince himself as he has complained about “unfair questions” from moderator Lester Holt, whom he had praised earlier, and a malfunctioning microphone.
“Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night,” Clinton told her travelling pool of reporters, clearly delighted with her rival’s obvious frustration at not faring well after tweeting out snap polls showing he had won.
A consensus emerged on Tuesday, at least in US media, that Clinton won the debate, watched by a record 84 million viewers in the US, not counting those who tuned in on social media or those abroad.
The previous best was 80.6 million for the only debate of 1980 between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. The first debate from the 2012 Obama-Romney race was the next highest at 67 million viewers.
Trump remained unimpressed, and continued to cite online polls numbers, triggering speculation that unhappy with himself, he may switch back to being the candidate he was during the primaries. “I really eased up because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Trump said in a TV interview, adding he would have brought up “the many affairs that Bill Clinton had” but held back because Chelsea Clinton was in the audience.
“I didn’t think it was worth the shot,” he said. “I didn’t think it was nice.” But with his advisers such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who called Clinton “too stupid to be president” egging him on, he just might stop being nice.
Clinton is prepared for it, of course. “He can run his campaign however he chooses,” she said. “I will continue to talk about what I want to do for the American people.”
Trump will indeed run his campaign as he wants to. He doubled down on his remarks about Machado gaining weight soon after winning the pageant, which he had then just bought, saying “it was a real problem. We had a real problem”.
In a press conference call arrange day the Clinton campaign, Machado, who is now a political activist, said Trump always treated her like a “lesser thing, like garbage” and that this election was like “a bad dream” back after 20 years.