Trump took off the gloves, landed punches repeatedly, and changed the tone instantly when saying to Hillary that if he were in charge "you’d be in jail".
He set up the audience to watch for the zingers. He circled like a shark, often staying in the shot when she was talking. This distracted Clinton and the audience and likely degraded her message delivery.
Trump hit Hillary far harder than ever Rick Lazio did – but the extended focus on the video and her own condescension allowed him to fight back in a way that seemed proportionate, not bullying.
As predicted: He said he is ashamed of what he said in the bus but that she should be ashamed of what she has done to the American people…over and over again.
For his supporters: The optics of the now older but still passionate Clinton rape victims showed he WILL DO WHAT IS REQUIRED TO WIN.
For the undecideds: Trump wasn’t crazy and seemed not-dangerous. That makes this debate a win for him.
If Republicans continue to cut and run from Trump rather than graciously accepting his apology, that is a lose-lose strategy not only for Trump but for all their down-ballot candidates.
So expect the media to double down on the video and anything else they can dig up to keep the pressure on.
Heather Richardson Higgins is President and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice.