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Trump’s ‘bombshell’: Europe’s press reacts to final Clinton-Trump face-off

As Europe tuned into Wednesday night's third and final televised presidential debate, many of those watching were split on who was the stronger performer but united in singling out the defining moment of the night – unfortunately for Donald Trump.

The Republican candidate won praise from several European commentators.Ruth Sherlock, writing in the U.K.'s The Telegraph, noted that "Gone was the bombastic, irate and ranting Donald…instead there appeared onstage a calmer, more controlled, dare I say, grown-up version."

Meanwhile, Rob Crilly, writing for the same publication, believed Trump's strategy was successful for his "growling, interrupting and landing blows that will resonate with viewers."

Also writing in The Telegraph, Harriet Alexander declared that she would put forward Trump as the winner for the first time of the three debates, saying, "maybe it was the calm he projected, in comparison with his flustered, angry persona."

This sentiment was shared by Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, which said Trump was "no longer the candidate with no brakes" and that his measured approach fed through to create "a discussion more normal and more composed in tone" than the two previous debates.

The U.K.'s The Guardian agreed with this, saying that despite it still being an "ill-tempered clash", it was neither "as one-sided as the opening televised contest" nor "as personal as the second debate".

The Daily Mail was among those praising Trump's performance more robustly, contending he dominated Clinton "with the kind of emotional pressure that could drive undecided voters to side with strength instead of bureaucratese."

Yet just as many commentators took the opposing side.

A CNN/ORC poll taken immediately after the debate's conclusion showed that 52 per cent of respondents thought Mrs Clinton had won, compared with 39 per cent for Mr Trump.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump reacts during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016.
Rick Wilking | Reuters
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump reacts during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016.

Ed Luce writing in the Financial Times, argued "Hillary Clinton saved by far her best performance for last" while France's Le Monde praised the Democratic candidate for "showing patience and keeping a calm face despite her rival's numerous, and sometimes violent, interruptions."

Incidentally, according to news website Politico, Trump is said to have interrupted Clinton 37 times during the session which compares to the 5 times she cut him off.

The Guardian's Jill Abramson also praised Clinton, saying she had "radiated solidity" while the BBC's Anthony Zurcher turned to boxing for a parallel of her performance, contending she had delivered a "master class in parry-and-strike debate strategy."

Despite both sides drumming up more of a positive European media reaction than earlier debates during a campaign which the Financial Times described as "short on humor and long on ugliness", commentators unanimously identified the defining moment of the evening to be Trump's refusal to confirm whether he would accept the results of the election if they went against him, saying "I will keep you in suspense."

This remark placed an "unprecedented question mark over the peaceful succession of power", as the U.K.'s The Times newspaper put it.

Barney Henderson, writing in The Telegraph, was not alone in believing that any positive progress made by the billionaire businessman during the debate would be undone by this disturbing statement.

In Henderson's words, "I thought Trump was excellent tonight…however, he proclaimed, in front of the nation, that he would not commit to accepting America's democratic process….and that will be the epitaph for his "outsider" campaign."

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