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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, right, stands with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the start of the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Neither candidate landed a knockout punch in the first presidential debate


Neither candidate landed a knockout punch in the first presidential debate

WATCH  | Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton take on the debate.

No knockout punches

The much-anticipated first presidential debate didn't deliver any knockout punches, as both candidates assumed the leading roles that got them to the stage in the first place.

On the art of proper debating, Hillary Clinton likely won the first contest. But Donald Trump continued to prosecute his case against the political ruling class in a style and tone only he can deliver, and in an election where the electorate seems longing for a reason to disrupt the status quo.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, center, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump greet moderator Lester Holt after the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Rick T. Wilking/Pool via AP)

It will take a few days to see if Clinton did enough to stop Trump's recent surge, but there were some clear tactical victories and losses in a 90-minute free-for-all where moderator Lester Holt at times seemed on a bathroom break.

The change candidate

Trump's best moment came early in the night during a back-and-forth over jobs.

"Hillary, I'd just ask you this: You've been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now?" Trump said.

Trump encapsulated the central pillar of his campaign: Clinton has contributed to the nation's problems more than she helped resolve them.

With a recent Bloomberg poll showing that 66 percent of voters think the country is on the wrong track, Trump positioned himself as the change candidate.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Trump also appealed to independents with his rejection of politicians making promises during elections that they never keep. He called Clinton a "typical politician -- all talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn't work."

Clinton's big moment

Clinton's best moment came towards the end of the debate when she defended herself against an attack by Trump saying she didn't have the  stamina to be president.

"Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina," Clinton said. 

Lester Holt was steamrolled

While the first debate may not have proven a clear winner between the candidates, the biggest loser was moderator Lester Holt, who struggled to keep the candidates on topic.

Holt allowed the candidates responses to wander and segments to drag out beyond their 15-minute time constraint. 

Holt's apparent absence was noticed on Twitter. 

Weaknesses for both candidates

With the exception of trade and job creation early in the debate, Trump did not show a compelling command of policy. Towards the end he wandered off message on issues that played to Clinton's strength, like birtherism and temperament.

Clinton, on the other hand, was at times wonkish and rehearsed as she rolled through her policies, often sounding like she was reciting a checklist. But the overall sum of her performance was to tout her experience and record against a first-time politician.

Emails were a non-issue

Missing from the debate was Clinton's email scandal. Surprisingly, the issue was only brought up once by Donald Trump.

"Let her release her emails," Trump said when asked if he would release his tax returns. "Why did she delete 33,000 emails?"

Clinton continues her outreach to students

During the first segment, Clinton and Trump were asked how they would create more wealth.

Clinton brought up debt-free college when talking about how she would jump-start our economy.

"I think building the middle class, investing in the middle class, making college debt-free so more young people can get their education, helping people refinance their debt from college at a lower rate, those are the kinds of things that will really boost the economy."

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