NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Monday night’s showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was the most watched presidential debate in history.
The Nielsen company said 84 million people watched the debate.
There were also 2.5 million people watching on YouTube and millions more on other websites. Until now, the most watched debate was between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Donald Trump blamed the moderator, a bad microphone and anyone but himself Tuesday after he was forced onto the defense by Hillary Clinton’s cascade of attacks about his taxes, honesty and character in the first presidential debate.
Though he said on Twitter he had “really enjoyed” the debate, Trump accused moderator Lester Holt of a left-leaning performance and going harder on him than Clinton. He insisted he had “no sniffles” and no allergies despite the #snifflegate speculation that had exploded on social media.
Still, Trump insisted he’d gotten the better of Clinton, awarding her a C-plus while declining to assign himself a grade. He also threatened to go harder after her in the next debate and said he’d planned to assail President Bill Clinton for his “many affairs” and stopped himself solely because daughter Chelsea Clinton had been in the room.
“It was a fascinating period of time and I think we did very well,” Trump said.
Trump told CBS2’s Dick Brennan that he held in his “fire in regard” to the former president’s “major transgressions.”
“With Chelsea in the room, who I think is a wonderful young lady, I thought it would be inappropriate for me to say that,” Trump said.
Clinton, meanwhile, was in a celebratory mood, telling reporters on her campaign plane she had a “great, great time” and was “thrilled” by how it went.
She accused Trump of making “demonstrably untrue” claims in the debate and mocked him for floating the possibility that debate organizers had set him up by lowering the volume on his “terrible” microphone so he was quieter than Clinton.
“Anybody who’s complaining about the microphone is not having a good night,” Clinton said.
Clinton insisted the debate made the choice clear.
“His demeanor, his temperament, his behavior on the stage can be seen by every day people,” the Democratic nominee said, adding the voters could “draw their own conclusions.”
Both campaigns knew the highly anticipated first debate could mark a turning point six weeks before Election Day, but it was unclear if either candidate would reap significant gains. Trump and Clinton are locked in an exceedingly close race and competing vigorously to win over undecided voters.
“I think people saw last night some very clear differences,” Clinton said.
The debate Monday night was confrontational from the start, with Trump frequently trying to interrupt Clinton and speaking over her answers. Clinton was more measured and restrained, often smiling through his answers, well-aware of the television cameras capturing her reaction.
The Democrat blasted Trump for his refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with decades of presidential campaign tradition. She declared, “There’s something he’s hiding.”
Trump has said he can’t release his tax returns because he is being audited, though tax experts have said an audit is no barrier to making the information public. When Clinton suggested Trump’s refusal may be because he paid nothing in federal taxes, he interrupted to say, “That makes me smart.”
“I will release my tax returns against my lawyers’ wishes when she releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted,” Trump said.
Clinton responded to the email scandal, saying, “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it differently but I’m not going to make excuses and I take responsibility for that.”
“More than a mistake,” Trump replied. “Done purposely.”
Trump’s criticism of Clinton turned personal in the debate’s closing moments. He said, “She doesn’t have the look, she doesn’t have the stamina” to be president.
He’s made similar comments in previous events, sparking outrage from Clinton backers who accused him of leveling a sexist attack on the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. political party.
Clinton leapt at the opportunity to remind voters of Trump’s controversial comments about women, who will be crucial to the outcome of the November election.
“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs,” she said.
Clinton also went after Trump for criticizing the way 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado looked.
“He called this woman Miss Piggy, miss housekeeping because she was a Latina,” Clinton said.
Trump defended himself Tuesday morning.
“She was the winner. She gained a massive amount of weight, it was a real problem,” Trump said.
Machado called it a “bad dream.”
“I never imagined this. For me, this is a bad dream for me,” Machado said.
The centerpiece of Trump’s case against Clinton was that the former senator and secretary of state is little more than a career politician who has squandered opportunities to address the domestic and international problems she’s now pledging to tackle as president.
“She’s got experience,” he said, “but it’s bad experience.”
When Trump made a crack about Clinton taking time off the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, she turned it into a validation of her readiness for the White House.
“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,” Clinton said. “And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”
The candidates also sparred over trade, taxes and how to bring good-paying jobs back to the United States.
Some other frequently hot-button issues were barely mentioned during the intense debate. Illegal immigration and Trump’s promises of a border wall were not part of the conversation. And while Clinton addressed her private email server, she was not grilled about her family’s foundation, Bill Clinton’s past infidelities or voter doubts about her trustworthiness.
But analysts say Clinton’s one-liners will energize her base.
“Her line about stamina and the one about women will be played over and over again and it will increase enthusiasm among Democrats,” said CBS News political director and “Face the Nation” moderator John Dickerson.
As for Trump, some say he still has a way to go with a key GOP demographic — suburban women.
“There’s nothing in the debate that would give them confidence,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson also said Trump supporters were energized by their candidate’s candor.
With precious few weeks left to campaign, both candidates returned promptly to the trail Tuesday, with Clinton campaigning Tuesday in North Carolina and Trump in Florida. Those are among a handful of toss-up states whose winners could help determine the outcome of the election.
Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, was also on the campaign trail Tuesday in Orlando.
“She answered the questions and she had answers,” he said of Clinton. “On the other side, you had a guy — well look, if you are that rattled now, try being president”
Meanwhile, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence Pence said Trump was “focused on the issues that the American people care about.”
Pence also said he thought Trump came off as an agent for change while Clinton epitomized the Washington “status quo.”
The vice presidential nominees square off Oct. 4 in a debate hosted by CBS News’ Elaine Quijano.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Trump should not participate in any debates unless the moderator agrees to be a moderator, and not a fact-checker.
Clinton and Trump are slated to face each again on Oct. 9 in St. Louis. Their running mates will debate each other next Monday.
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