It’s not so bad to tell everyone you have big “hands.” Trying to get rival candidates to be quiet comes off as condescending. And it’s not so bad every now and then just to oooh and ah in response to an attack.
Voters have been asked to watch a lot of debates this primary season, or at least journalists have. Reviewers and political pundits have declared a number of winners after various debates. And Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have mixed reviews. Yet those two candidates have mostly stayed on top of their races.
So, we thought it was time to call in the experts. Eitan Ezra and Harrison Hurt are seniors at Poly Prep Academy in Brooklyn. They are also the top ranked high school debate duo in the public forum category in the U.S. The pair had a lot to say about the candidates’ performances, and much of it was at odds with the conclusions that the pundits have declared.
Perhaps most surprising is that Ezra and Hurt think Donald Trump has done a fairly good job in the debates. They think his big “hands” comment actually exuded confidence and probably won voters. Although they say that is certainly not a tactic one should try on the high school debate circuit. They also liked how often Trump talks about how he is ahead in the polls. They said one of the best tactics in debate is to stress to the audience and your opponent that you think you are winning.
Marco Rubio could have used a pointer or two from these debate champs. While attacks have worked for Trump, they suggested the other candidates would do better to distinguish themselves by sticking to the issues.
On the Democratic side, they think Bernie Sanders has done a convincing job putting Clinton on the defensive over her ties to Wall Street. “The way he expresses discontent with what she said before he addressed it is a good thing,” says Ezra.
“It’s not only that. He makes her look like she is whining in this moment” says Hurt. “Oh, boo-hoo Hillary what a terrible price having to take all this money from Goldman Sachs.”
Ezra and Hurt say Sanders is in danger of sounding like a one issue candidate, though. Their advice for him is to say Wall Street a little less often. For Clinton, they say she has been too vague about her ties to the banking world. She needs to respond with more concrete examples that show that the money she has received from Wall Street or elsewhere hasn’t swayed her actions.
As for Trump, Ezra and Hurt say he should try to take and refute criticism with calm. But that’s likely a lot easier to do for two high school debate champs than Trump. They shouldn’t hold their breath.