Ron Elving

Little has gone as expected in this extraordinary presidential cycle, so we should have known Tuesday's vice presidential debate would have a twist or two in it, too.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence each represented three clients in their 90-minute debate from Farmville, Va. The two former attorneys pleaded the case for their respective principals (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump), to be sure, but also for their respective parties and for themselves.

Amid the clamor of the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two much lower-key fellows who are also nominees for national office will take the stage Tuesday night in rural Virginia and try to be heard.

Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence will talk about policy and their competing visions for America. They will almost surely offer more substance on issues than we heard in the first debate between the presidential nominees a week earlier.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

You could see the contrast in the eyes of the respective candidates' spokespersons, surrogates and family members after the first presidential debate of 2016 had wrapped.

As always, earnest efforts were made on both sides to claim victory — even insist on it — after the nationally televised clash between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.]

"Trump was especially strong on the issues in the first 45 minutes," said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on CNN.

Yet a general and clear consensus formed quickly among the snap pollsters, focus groups, reporters, commentators and TV panelists. And it did not favor Trump.

In sum: Clinton projected more of what she wanted than Trump, who did not strike the contrast or meet the expectations set up by his own campaign.

You could see the contrast in the eyes of the respective candidates' spokespersons, surrogates and family members after the first presidential debate of 2016 had wrapped.

As always, earnest efforts were made on both sides to claim victory — even insist on it — after the nationally televised clash between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

"Trump was especially strong on the issues in the first 45 minutes," said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on CNN.

Dario Lopez-Mills/AP

Donald Trump has provided the political world with many moving moments over the past year, but none quite like the whiplash mood swing between his daytime and nighttime performances in Mexico City and Phoenix on Wednesday.

In the daylight hours, Trump struck his most presidential pose to date with a solemn (if somewhat grumpy) reading of prepared remarks at a news conference alongside Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto. That somber event, inside the Mexican presidential residence, epitomized the more moderate image Trump has pursued on immigration issues over the past ten days.

But as night fell in Phoenix, back in the U.S.A., Trump mounted the stage in prime time and quickly caught fire. He poured forth an hour-long harangue against all things alien, highlighting the lurid crimes of a handful of illegal immigrants as if to define the character of millions. He also promised to build "a beautiful wall" across the entire U.S.-Mexico border and create a "deportation task force" that would eventually guarantee that "the bad ones are gone."

Read: NPR Fact Checks Donald Trump's Speech on Immigration

On the subject of the wall, Trump departed from his script to assure his listeners that Mexico would indeed pay for it – adding, "They may not know it yet, but they will." In so doing, he as much as acknowledged that Peña Nieto had told him something different earlier in the day.

Donald Trump has provided the political world with many moving moments over the past year, but none quite like the whiplash mood swing between his daytime and nighttime performances in Mexico City and Phoenix on Wednesday.

The current presidential campaign may seem unlike any in recent memory, but most of the techniques and strategies we have seen so far hearken back to the politics of the past.

For example, few would dispute that the past week has been dominated by "mudslinging," the practice of tossing accusations and epithets at one's opponent. Mudslinging is always regretted and decried, yet it invariably returns with each election cycle.

When Donald Trump started a national conversation about his regrets the other day, he notably neglected to say just what he regretted.

"Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it — and I do regret it — particularly where it may have caused personal pain."

A Pivotal For Week For Donald Trump

Aug 6, 2016

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Evan Vucci/AP

Let's take a step back from the news of the past few days and ask a fundamental question: Why does everything suddenly seem different?

Donald Trump, the unsinkable candidate who seemed immune to political consequences while winning Republican presidential primaries month after month, now finds himself with an ailing campaign and a bad case of personal toxicity.

Cable TV and other news media are obsessed with fallout within Team Trump and dissension in the Republican Party. When Trump holds a rally or takes to Twitter, half the nation seems to hold its breath — waiting for him to insult someone, snarl at a baby or maybe punt a puppy off the podium.

Why? Because the contest has changed, the media context has changed — and Trump has been caught in a confluence of damaging stories.

Let's take a step back from the news of the past few days and ask a fundamental question: Why does everything suddenly seem different?

Donald Trump, the unsinkable candidate who seemed immune to political consequences while winning Republican presidential primaries month after month, now finds himself with an ailing campaign and a bad case of personal toxicity.

When all was said and done, Team Hillary had to be pretty happy. Their four nights in Philadelphia turned out better than almost anyone expected.

Thursday night featured an orchestrated symphony of praise for Hillary Clinton and a precision-bombing of her opponent, Donald Trump.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The third night of the 2016 Democratic Convention scaled several major peaks: President Obama gave, perhaps, the best-written oration of his career. Vice President Joe Biden gave, perhaps, his last national convention address, and his prospective successor, Tim Kaine, gave his first.

But when it was all over, and Obama was joined on stage by the woman who wants to succeed him, you could feel the love welling up from the delegates and you could sense the doubt hanging over them — an invisible cloud casting a psychological shadow.

Yes, the crowd had been wowed by Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Warren and the "Comeback Kid" himself, Bill Clinton.

But would Hillary Clinton herself be able to seal the deal on the last night?

The third night of the 2016 Democratic convention scaled several major peaks: President Obama gave, perhaps, the best-written oration of his career. Vice President Joe Biden gave, perhaps, his last national convention address, and his prospective successor, Tim Kaine, gave his first.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Tuesday night session of the Democratic convention was really three events, each with its own atmosphere and impact, but all contributing to a single theme: The Clintons are back.

The first event was the most consequential. Two names were placed in nomination, those of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The traditional roll call ensued, with each delegation proudly proclaiming the singular virtues of its home state — and eventually reporting the tally of delegate votes for each contender.

By the time the roll had passed South Dakota, Clinton had surpassed the 2,383 votes needed to win. This should have surprised no one who has kept any sort of tabs on the primaries and caucuses, which long ago showed she would have more than enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot.

This had been the way to bet since Clinton won the Ohio primary resoundingly on March 15. But Sanders' camp had held out hope that their winning streak in April would sow doubts, and insisted a big upset in California in June would change everything.

Even after Clinton had won California handily, some Sanders fans still hoped her high negatives in polling, her adverse media narratives and the heavy bombardment she got from Republicans would give Democratic delegates pause. They hoped even this past weekend's release of emails from the Democratic National Committee would finally torpedo her candidacy.

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