But he wasn’t, really. Yes, Trump had some good moments. He scored on the two highest voter-interest issues, jobs and national security, and that’s no small accomplishment. He also hit Clinton hard when she pulled out her talking point that she had made “a mistake” by creating a secret, unsecure email system as Secretary of State. “That was more than a mistake,” Trump said. “That was done purposefully, OK? That was not a mistake…when you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they’re not prosecuted…”
Trump’s problem was that he didn’t have a lot of really good moments like that because he spent so much time talking about taxes, birtherism, and Iraq. The Clinton team wanted to distract him, to keep him on topics that hurt him — and away from topics that hurt her. They succeeded. “We were very happy with the debate,” campaign manager Robby Mook said shortly afterward. “I think he was totally unprepared.”
Meanwhile, those topics that could have done Trump a lot of good if handled well — Obamacare, immigration and the wall, the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi — were left untouched. Yes, blame Lester Holt for not bringing them up. But blame Donald Trump more for not taking matters into his own hands.