Pittsburgh experts reveal who won the first presidential debate

Was it even a contest? These six say no.

Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK / David Albers-Naples Daily News
MJ Slaby

It was the 90 minutes we’d all been waiting for … or dreading — the first official face off between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

And according to six experts at universities in Pittsburgh, Clinton was the clear winner after a debate filled with interruptions, meme-worthy reactions, personal attacks and even some discussion of plans.

She was poised and tenacious to his ill-prepared and bombastic, they said.

“Trump had some good moments decrying the state of politics and the need for change,” said John Hanley, Duquesne University assistant professor of political science.

But Hanley said those good moments were bogged down by Trump’s self-promotion, repeating himself and interruptions, which gave the advantage to Clinton.

“Clinton, I think, saw what condition Trump was in and for the most part left him to his fate,” Hanley said.

And for Steve Hallock, director of graduate studies at Point Park University’s School of Communication, the best response of the debate was from Clinton after Trump criticized her for too much debate prep time.

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. 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,” she said.

The Incline asked multiple experts to weigh in with their immediate thoughts after the debate and six agreed. Hallock and Hanley were two of them.

Also joining them were four from Carlow University: Sandi DiMola, chair of the Justice Studies Department; Jessica Ruffin, director of the Social Justice Institutes; Linda Schifino, associate professor and chair of the Communication Department; Cynthia Karaffa, assistant professor of political science and sociology.

Here’s how they’d describe each candidate during the debate in one word:

ExpertClinton's performanceTrump's performance

The group was unanimous that Hillary won the debate and would do it again.

“This debate became very personal, very quickly. Donald Trump spent a lot of time on the defensive,” Ruffin said.

But only five of the six agreed she’d sweep Trump, 3-0. DiMola thought Trump would win one debate, still giving Clinton the advantage.

And the experts were split four-to-two over whether Pennsylvania go blue. DiMola and Ruffin said no, it would go red.

As a scholar, Hallock said he’d score Trump low on both visual and oral communicative skills, saying Trump’s “facial expression represented a lousy temperament and demeanor.” But he said Trump’s constant interruptions won’t make a difference with his voters.

“None of this will likely change the options of his supporters, who have stuck with him through lies, evasion and bullying throughout,” Hallock said.

And the challenge for Clinton remains: Can she be “assertive enough to lead the free world, yet likable enough to not alienate voters?” DiMola said.

Ruffin also noted that the debate revealed motivations, with Trump often discussing his business experience. And she said she was discouraged that “neither candidate addressed race issues in this country directly.”

“I encourage all voters to spend time checking facts,” she said.