Voter Survival Guide

When Clinton attacked Trump over Vladimir Putin, the debate became nasty

Welcome to McClatchy’s Voter Survival Guide, an interactive presentation of daily events from one of the strangest presidential campaigns in modern history.

The first 25 minutes of Wednesday night’s debate was a bit surprising in an election season full of personal attacks as both candidates clashed on substantive policy issues such as the Supreme Court, abortion and guns.

Then came an exchange about Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump switched from calm and collected to angry and rattled.

After Trump stated why Putin would prefer Trump over Hillary Clinton as president, Clinton made a jab and Trump got mad.

“Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” Clinton said.

“No puppet. No puppet,” Trump said.

“And it's pretty clear...,” Clinton said.

“You're the puppet!” Trump exclaimed. “No, you’re the puppet.”

From that point on, Trump started grabbing his microphone and frequently interrupted Clinton and moderator Chris Wallace.

Then came the two big moments later in the debate, where Trump refused to accept the results of the election and where he described Clinton as a “nasty woman.”

The pundits and voters are chalking up another debate win for Clinton, bad news for a Trump campaign that is sputtering and teetering on losing in a landslide on November 8.

The polls open nationally in 18 days. Let’s get started.

Putin exchange riles up Trump

Clinton clearly had a plan during the final debate to poke Trump with various accusations, and her Putin comments touched a nerve.

She initially brought up Putin herself, during an exchange on immigration, and even though Trump rightly pointed out she was pivoting away from the issue, she succeeded in getting under his skin.

The next five minutes of the debate involved Trump frequently interrupting Clinton and Wallace, and Clinton appeared to control the rest of the debate.

He then called Clinton a “nasty woman” in the waning moments of the debate.

Voters did not like a riled up Trump

Swing voters in Orlando were put off by Trump’s graphic language

Even though the beginning of the debate featured the most substantive policy discussion between both candidates in any of the three debates, focus group voters—and even Trump supporters—did not like his graphic language describing late-term abortions.

“If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby,” Trump said.

Voters in Florida recoiled at Donald Trump’s graphic description of late-term abortions from the third and final presidential debate Wednesday.

Robert Couch, 23, of Orlando, student assistant who is pro-life and voting for Trump called it an “extremely graphic description.”

“I don’t think he should have done that,” he said. “It was excessive.”

Can Trump come back from another debate loss?

It’s clear that Trump is lagging in the polls, and his refusal to accept the will of voters on November 8—in direct contrast to his running mate Mike Pence and daughter Ivanka—won’t win over any remaining swing votes.

“What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time,” Trump said when pressed if he will accept the results of the election. “I'll keep you in suspense. OK?”

Trump, already struggling with his base, is trailing in nearly every battleground state. He’s even losing Arizona and Republicans like Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake have abandoned the Republican nominee.

He’s continued feuding with GOP leadership and House speaker Paul Ryan isn’t campaigning with him anymore. Ryan spent Wednesday in Miami helping down-ballot races.

Links of note

Trump says ‘bad hombres’ in presidential debate, and Twitter goes wild (McClatchy)

WikiLeaks shows that Clinton’s campaign chief once opened doors for energy firm (McClatchy)

Fact-checking Trump and Clinton in the Las Vegas debate (Miami Herald)

Trump: Clinton is behind sexual assault allegations (CNN)

Have a question about the candidates, the campaign, the process, the election itself? Ask us here.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty