Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) debates Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Photograph: (Getty)
As expected there were staggering lies, interruptions, pre-scripted zingers and more. But Clinton won by letting Trump appear like himself
Hillary Clinton wore a red trouser suit for the first 2016 US Presidential debate while Donald Trump appeared in a blue tie, which was an interesting colour reversal; red is usually associated with the Republicans and blue with the Democrats.
Mr Trump called Hillary "Secretary Clinton" during the debate, moderated by the anchor of NBC Nightly News Lester Holt and conducted at New York's Hoftsra university, while she called him "Donald". But that was about as long as the cordiality lasted.
The exchange that came after was testy, with myriad interruptions and Mr Holt struggling to rein in the two nominees.
Shortly into the debate -- divided into three sections: achieving prosperity, America's direction, and securing America -- Mrs Clinton said Mr Trump began his career with a $14 million handout from his father. Trump responded by saying he had used the money to build a "fantastic" business empire, something that was worth a lot more today than the original sum.
The jabs became more frequent, a lot of them coming surprisingly from Clinton rather than from (considering his record) Trump.
There was a lot riding on this debate, with polls saying as many as 50 per cent of undecided voters would make up their minds about whom they would vote for depending on what they heard from the two candidates.
And in the end -- there are two more debates still to come, on October 9 and 19 -- the polls gave the first debate to Clinton.
A CNN/ORC poll said 62 per cent thought Clinton had won, while 27 per cent thought Trump had. And a poll by Public Policy Polling said 51 per cent thought Clinton had won, while 40 per cent gave it to Trump.
The pundits said Mr Trump had begun well. And that he was "effective" when he said in the first section -- achieving prosperity -- that businesses, and jobs, were leaving America. (Trade and economy, the pundits said, were areas that Mr Trump felt strongly about. Mr Trump also talked about the enormity of America's national debt and how the country could no longer afford it.)
When manufacturers leave America but want to continue to sell their products in the country, Mr Trump said, he would tax those products. And, he added, he would work to stop those businesses from leaving in the first place.
Mr Trump said he would do so by slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 per cent, the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan's in 1981. And that would keep businesses in America and create thousands of jobs, he said.
That of course was a variant of the theory of trickle-down economics, and Mrs Clinton was quick to pounce on it, calling it "trumped up trickle-down".
She said her plan -- investment in small businesses because she said that's what creates new jobs -- had been vetted, unlike Trump's, and that it would create 10 million jobs while Mr Trump's would lead to the loss of 3.5 million jobs.
Some of that is misleading.
What the available data actually shows is that the American economy is expected to create 7.2 million jobs despite what Mrs Clinton, should she win, does. So it would be fairer to say Mrs Clinton's plan is expected to create about 3 million jobs while Mr Trump's is expected to cut 400,000 jobs.
Mr Trump got more riled as the debate went on, taking, the pundits said, "the bait" each time Mrs Clinton dangled it in front of him.
The mistakes that he made, they said, included his response to Mrs Clinton when she said he had cheered on the housing collapse of 2008 so that he could make money off the crash.
"That's business," Mr Trump replied.
Clinton criticised Trump for not releasing his tax returns and said that decision raised questions about whether he was as rich and charitable as he has claimed to be. (Reuters)
When she said he paid no federal income tax -- Mr Trump has still not released his tax returns -- he said "that makes me smart". Mrs Clinton pounced on that too, saying he paid "zero for troops, zero for schools, zero for health".
And that if he paid his taxes, there would be a lowering of the national debt.
Later, when Mr Trump was asked how we would improve race relations, he said "law and order". That, the pundits said, was the wrong answer, especially in the current climate when there has been a high number of fatal shootings of African American men by police.
Tinkering with the truth
As might have been expected with Mr Trump, there was also some amount of tinkering with the truth.
He said it was Mrs Clinton who started the controversy over whether or not President Obama had been born in the United States, and that it occurred while they were contending the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination. He also claimed that her then campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, had sent a reporter to Kenya looking for President Obama's birth certificate. (President Obama has a Kenyan father. He was born in Hawaii, he released his birth certificate in 2011.)
Ms Doyle was on television a few minutes later, refuting Mr Trump's claim.
Mr Trump also claimed he had not supported the invasion of Iraq, which is untrue.