News Analysis: final debate adds little odds to Trump victory

2016-10-20 09:40:39 GMT2016-10-20 17:40:39(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Matthew Rusling

LAS VEGAS, the United States, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial statement that he may not concede the election results if he loses will not help him gain ground as the clock ticks toward the November election, experts said.

"I'll tell you at the time," Trump said in response to a question whether he would concede the election if he loses. "I'll keep you in suspense, ok?"

The statement came at the third and final debate between Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton Wednesday night, in which Trump repeated his complaints that the election is rigged against him.

While the statement may gain applause from Trump's core supporters, it will do nothing to help him appeal to moderates at a time when he needs to create a broader base of support. Trump has been trailing Clinton by big margins in some recent national polls.

Trump "made a big mistake in not saying he would accept the election outcome," said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution.

"Even his daughter Ivanka has said he should do this. Many people will condemn him for this basic disrespect of democratic elections," West told Xinhua.

Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, echoed that thought. "The manner in which Trump doubted the legitimacy of the election...will continue to alienate educated, moderate voters," he told Xinhua.

Trump's general performance in the debate has also been questioned by some. Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, said that the third debate gives each candidate a final chance to restate their case against their opponent. "But I don't think Trump did much to help himself or hurt Clinton in this debate," he said.

On the whole, Trump did nothing to change the campaign narrative and Clinton made no major mistakes in the debate, West said.

During the debate, Trump became somewhat combative, claiming that "this country is going to be in some mess" if Clinton becomes president.

He also said that in 30 years of politics, Clinton has done nothing but talk. "But you don't get anything done, Hillary," he said.

Wednesday night was also a test of whether Trump could appear presidential, as many moderates remain unsure about whether they could see him in the White House.

West said Clinton showed in the debate that she has much greater substantive expertise than Trump, who does not know much about the issues.

Trump "sometimes would get distracted by his own defense and ignore chances to attack her," he noted.

Some experts pointed out that Trump failed to dominate Clinton in the same way he had done in the previous debate, and his efforts to essentially play Clinton's game by discussing policy fell flat.

"It's really hard for me to look at Trump's performance tonight and see much that would move an undecided voter or a hesitant Republican in Ohio or North Carolina or any other swing state," Galdieri said, speaking of key battleground states in the election.

However, Mahaffee sees it as a close night, with Hillary having a small advantage based on temperament.

"Trump certainly hit all the points his base wanted to hear tonight, and his bluster was less than a lot of folks expected given his recent approach to the shift in the course of the campaign," Mahaffee said.

Going into the ballot booth, voters will be thinking about the responsibilities inherent in the office of the president. Neither candidate has expanded their appeal over the past six weeks, but in an unpredictable world, there will be concerns about the nature of the person chosen for that office.

While there are many concerns about Clinton and her trustworthiness, there are fundamental concerns about the mindset that Trump would bring to this office. While many are unsatisfied and angry, and the election will likely be close, Mahaffee said.