If you only read one thing: We survived! (Barely...) After more than 20 debates, all that's left between us and the end of this depressing campaign is 19 days of voting. Wednesday's debate was probably the best of the cycle, with an equal mix of substantive discussion and inter-candidate engagement. It was a testament to the moderator, and two the two candidates growing more comfortable on that unique stage. That said, it was still a far way from what Americans are used to seeing on the presidential debate stage.
Donald Trump's refusal to commit to honoring the outcome of the general election was a historic development that threatens to undermine the very backbone of American democracy. The condemnations from Republicans and Democrats were swift, and even his own advisors and running-mate tried to walk him back off it. But it evoked the old Marx Brothers quote: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" Beyond the immediate firestorm, the comments provide yet more friction for conservatives who dislike both candidates to get behind Trump, his sober appeal on the Supreme Court at the start of the debate notwithstanding. Clinton paraphrased President Obama's comments on Tuesday, saying, "when you’re whining before the game is even finished it just shows you’re not up to doing the job."
Donald Trump's Best Moment: As he responded to Hillary Clinton's promise to appoint a trade prosecutor, Trump made his case as a change candidate. "Let me ask a simple question. She’s been doing this for 30 years. Why the hell didn’t you do it over the last 15, 20 years," he said.
Hillary Clinton's Best Moment: When she responded to that same charge by Trump, listing her accomplishments in office over the same period, while highlighting Trump's jobs at the same time—including a Celebrity Apprentice joke. (Her campaign loved the moment so much they turned it into a video.)
Donald Trump's Worst Moment (other than questioning the legitimacy of the election): When Clinton pivoted a question about her paid speeches to bankers to Wikileaks and Russian attempts to influence the election, particularly Trump's defense of Vladimir Putin was a sign he would be a stooge for his regime. "Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States," Clinton said.
Hillary Clinton's Worst Moment: When Trump invoked retired Gen. James Cartwright's recent guilty plea in an investigation into leaking classified information, and questioned why Clinton, who made misstatements of fact about her email server, didn't suffer the consequences. She didn't address the issue.
Once again the debate presented two candidates with radically different visions of this race and the nation, as Trump continued his doom-and-gloom pronouncements about the state of the country and Clinton appealed for national unity. With millions of people already voting and just over two weeks until polls close, the debate did little to alter the trajectory of the race, which marks it up a clear loss for the trailing Trump.
Here are your must reads:
How Donald Trump Undermined Democratic Tradition
Questioning the legitimacy of the election breaks with centuries of precedent [TIME]
How Chris Wallace Tamed Donald Trump
TIME's Philip Elliott on the Fox News anchor's moment to shine
Donald Trump Refuses to Say Whether He’ll Accept Election Results
Says he'll keep voters in suspense [TIME]
Donald Trump Is Not Following Al Gore’s Lead By Doubting Election Results
The comparison does not hold up, TIME's David Von Drehle writes
Hillary Clinton Wants to End on a High Note
But the debate showed why that’s hard, TIME's Sam Frizell reports
7 Key Lessons From the Final Presidential Debate
TIME's Joe Klein on what we learned
"That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders, OK? How did we get on to Putin?" — Donald Trump on Clinton's deft move
"Well, I’m just quoting you when you were asked…" — Hillary Clinton as Donald Trump objected to her characterization of his nuclear policy
Bits and Bites
Fact Check: Trump, Clinton and their debate claims [Associated Press]