The second US presidential debate was a bitter affair, peppered with interruptions, insults and accusations of lies, but with a sense of crisis enveloping the Trump campaign many commentators said neither candidate was the clear winner.
Days after Mr Trump was shamed by the publication of a video which contained sordid and sexually aggressive statements made by him towards women, viewers were left wondering how he would react.
True to form, Mr Trump chose attack as the best form of defence.
He flagged his approach to the debate by calling a surprise press conference shortly beforehand, wheeling out a panel of women accusing Bill Clinton of sexual abuse, including rape.
Predictably, Mrs Clinton leapt onto the sexist tapes scandal and used it as a metaphor for her opponent’s volatility.
While one expert described Mr Trump’s response to the video as “incredibly weak”, the even result may have stabilised the Trump campaign and will not have damaged Ms Clinton’s chances of becoming the first female president.
‘Damage control a win’
Member of The Chaser and commentator on US politics Chas Licciardello said Mr Trump effectively minimised the damage from the tapes and that the debate was a draw.
But the net result was confusion for the viewer and a blow to Mr Trump’s chances of winning, he said.
“He sprayed a lot of squid ink, so it was very difficult to know what was going on. The net result was just confusion, as much as anything,” Mr Licciardello told The New Daily.
“That actually is a loss for Trump because, yes, he avoided it being a massive disaster, which it could have been.
“Three hours ago, when Trump is parading out the women who Bill Clinton allegedly raped, it looked like it could have been very, very, very ugly. That was avoided, which Republicans will be relieved to know. They would have been breathing a sigh of relief.
“But having said that, Trump is five points behind. A wash does not work for him. He needs to win big. He needs to win a point or two every single week, and he is really only going to have two major opportunities to do that for the rest of the campaign, and this was one of them. If he comes out with a tie, that’s a loss for him.”
Given the week Trump has had, there was a lot at stake for him, observed Jesse Barker Gale, a Congressional Fellow in the United States House of Representatives.
“Overall it was a good for Trump because he will survive until election day,” Mr Barker Gale told The New Daily.
“If he didn’t have a good debate the calls for him to stand aside would have intensified.
“He’s been haemorrhaging support across the country and his performance was good enough to stop the haemorrhaging, but it won’t bring anyone back.”
On the question of the damaging video, Mr Barker Gale said the Republican nominee addressed the issue “but again he refused to apologise which is very strange.”
“He quickly pivoted to the allegations against Bill Clinton. It was a line that he would have be advised against by everyone.
“It was easy enough for Clinton to tip it away from the main charge of the argument. It was clear she was’t going to be caught up in a debate about what her husband did.”
James Cahill, the deputy editor of Election Watch at the University of Melbourne, also called the debate a draw, but given the context “that makes it a win for Mrs Clinton.”
“The context is that after her first debate bounce the major polling aggregators have her four to six points ahead of Mr Trump. In the modern polling era that began in the 1950s, no candidate has ever come back from such a large deficit this late in the race.
On Trump’s deflection over the video, his explanation of ‘locker room talk’ was “an incredibly weak answer”, said Mr Cahill.
“I don’t believe he adequately answered that question or did himself any favours,” Mr Cahill told The New Daily.
“I think the race is Mrs Clinton’s to lose, barring an October surprise I think it’s going to be Madam President.”