James O'Brien is Leading Britain's Conversation.
20 October 2016, 16:39
Now we know where Hillary has been all week. She died.
The white ghost of Mrs.Clinton floated onto the stage in Las Vegas - white hair, white teeth, white suit, like the medical purser of a cruise ship lost at sea in the late 1800s.
Her hairstyle looked to have cost as much as her opponent had spent on his suit. That is not a slight on his tailor.
The American flag pinned to his lapel, power tie predominant, the one-man maelstrom that is Donald Trump moved to grip his podium as though he was engaging it in a wrestling bout.
Handshakes, there were none.
For this debate, The Donald had selected a colour for his face that human beings often come in. Gone was that dusky peach shade of a 1970s bathroom suite.
Absent also was his crowd-pleasing showmanship. This was a toned down Donald that was prepared to engage with the issues. Considering the crushing pressure he is under, he did very well.
Speaking substantively is not his métier. He has got this far by being a grandiose, blustering stand-up comic of a candidate. His popularity propelled as much by what he says as how he says it.
In the final debate of the Comedy Clown Race To The White House, almost all of the funny had been excised from his act. It was the night that the race got serious.
He appealed to the gun lovers and the abortion haters and you could sense the right-wing pulling their chairs closer to the screen.
He spoke of mass immigration and the loss of jobs and his answers were at least the equal of Hillary's for much of the night.
He actually appeared to be winning for a good part of the debate. Even the sniff had been conquered.
His demeanour was the antithesis of his past performances - more softly spoken and less interrupty.
For the most part, Trump was actually calmer than Hillary, who seemed angrier and more forceful of late. Perhaps she can not believe that she still has not conclusively buried the chances of a game show host off the telly becoming the successor to Oback Arama.
It could be something about the sound they both make when speaking. Trump is sonorous and yet sing-song in his delivery. His dancing hands are mesmeric.
Clinton, on the other hand, has a monotone, droning, somnambulistic quality to her voice.
The only thing on her that moves is her mouth. Everything else about her face and body is static as though frozen in aspic.
Whether she appeared presidential is questionable. He certainly did. If you knew nothing about either candidate and saw them for the very first time you would pick Trump as the person with the top job.
That might have something to do with the traditional roles of the sexes.
These things matter. In times of great danger, like war, people are drawn to strong figures that appear to offer protection. You wouldn't want to be in a fist fight against Trump with only Hillary by your side.
Overall, there was no knock-out punch landed. Hillary won on women's issues, like abortion, Trump won on masculine concerns like guns and defence.
I would call it a tie, which will suit Clinton more than Trump.
The post-debate polls released on the 20th October showed that the needle had moved towards the Republican candidate.
The LA Times have them in a tie at 44% each, Trump is showing a 1% lead in the Investor's Business Daily IBD/TIPP survey when the two other main candidates are included (yes, there are other candidates) and Rasmussen has Trump ahead by 3%.
Those are the figures representing the popular vote but that is not what wins the race for the White House, as Al Gore knows. He won the most votes in 2000 but still lost to George W Bush after the debacle of the hanging chads of Florida.
The headline of the night was Trump's refusal to say that he would accept the result.
The Democrats were furious, forgetting the concession that their candidate Al Gore made in 2000, swiftly followed by his rescinding of that concession when he thought that he might win because Floridians had been too frail to punch a hole in a piece of paper.
Bush sued, the courts stopped the recount after what seemed an eternity and W won.
Who could confidently predict what will happen in the next three weeks?
Isn't it exciting?