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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

At the final debate, Trump proved he still does actually want to win the election


It's a question that's been asked more and more frequently in the run-up to Election Day: Does Donald Trump actually want to win the election?

At the third and final debate on Wednesday night, Trump proved he still does -- if only because he didn't completely boil over under the pressure of his recent scandals and refused to say whether he'd accept the results of the election if he lost.

Indeed, the first half of the debate was almost surprisingly calm and policy-focused -- particularly for Trump, who many expected to go full-force crazy at his final showdown with Hillary Clinton.

That's because, for Trump's campaign, the last few days have been disastrous. Numerous women came forward accusing the Republican nominee of sexual misconduct, and his poll numbers plummeted. His reaction was unprecedented -- he claimed a rigged election,  widespread voter fraud, and said Clinton was plotting "the destruction of U.S. sovereignty."

Trump remains on-message

Considering all that, it was unexpected that the Republican nominee -- known for being unpredictable under pressure -- remained on-message for the first half of the debate. 

Both candidates, for example, vigorously and substantively discussed their policy positions on abortion and gun control. Trump described the qualities of his ideal Supreme Court justice -- one who would "interpret the Constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted." It sounded almost like a traditional Republican answer.

'Bad hombres' and 'nasty woman'

Eventually, though, things devolved. Trump did have a few Trumpian moments that in a traditional election cycle would likely be considered gaffes.

During a discussion on immigration, for instance, Trump described drug dealers as "bad hombres," implying Hispanic heritage. And at one point, Trump called Clinton "such a nasty woman" when she described her plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund Social Security.

'I'll keep you in suspense'

And in what likely will be the most talked-about moment of the debate, Trump refused to say whether he'd accept the final election results should Clinton win. 

"I will look at it at the time," Trump said, adding later, "I'll keep you in suspense."

That's something Trump probably wouldn't say if he didn't actually want to win the election. 

Clinton hits Trump's fitness for president

Hillary Clinton, however, found Trump's answer on the election results "horrifying."

"Every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, it is rigged against him," Clinton said.

It was just one of the many moments on Wednesday that Clinton questioned Trump's temperament, judgment, and fitness for the presidency -- a recurring debate theme for her.

Clinton's best moment -- relating to women

Indeed, many of Clinton's most successful moments of the debate came when she was both hitting Trump over his fitness for the presidency -- and relating to women at the same time.

Her most memorable line, for example, came when talking about Trump's responses to the women accusing him of sexual misconduct. "He goes after their dignity, their self worth," she said. "I don't think there is a woman anywhere who doesn't know what that feels like."

Clinton's worst moment -- the Foundation

Clinton did falter, however, by outright refusing to answer questions about conflicts of interest with her prospective presidency and the Clinton Foundation, her family's global charity organization.

When moderator Chris Wallace asked about reports that raised questions over whether Clinton gave special treatment to foundation donors when she was secretary of state, Clinton changed the subject to Trump's group, the Trump Foundation.

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