Donald Trump went deeply negative at last night's debate to counter his 'hot mic' scandal. But the effort backfired. Rival Hillary Clinton emerged with a wider lead in the polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Donald Trump went deeply negative at last night’s debate to counter his ‘hot mic’ scandal. But the effort backfired. Rival Hillary Clinton emerged with a wider lead in the polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Donald Trump went down and dirty to attack rival Hillary Clinton at last night’s debate, hoping her negative might cancel his negative–a degrading conversation about women with Billy Bush a decade ago. Early polls indicated it flopped.

Clinton entered the debate with a substantial 11-point lead, according to a national poll of likely voters by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

The tally showed Clinton leading Trump, 46 percent to 35% percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein were unchanged at 9 percent and at 2 percent respectively.

Clinton also came out decisively ahead in one of the biggest polls of people who watched the debate. More than half, 57 percent, said she won, according to a CNN snap poll taken right after the contest.

Only 34 percent said Trump won, although 63 percent said he did a better job compared with the first debate. Clinton, again, was the clear winner.

In a separate read on the debate, YouGov, an online polling organization, surveyed 812 registered voters who watched, and they put Clinton ahead, 47 percent to 42 percent.

Both candidates went negative for much of the night, which typically doesn’t sway voters one way or the other.

In fact, negative campaigning turns off most voters, according to the Gallup Organization, a major polling outfit.

The 2000 presidential campaign between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush, was arguably the most negative in recent history, until this year’s slug fest, of course.

Back then, the Gallup survey underscored the potential risk in negative campaigning. Most Americans, it found, had little tolerance for negative ads.

“Not only does the public say they dislike seeing such ads, but they largely reject the argument that the information conveyed can be valuable for voters,” it concluded.

The public’s dissatisfaction with campaigning was driven by the perception that negative tactics were on the rise. In fact, back then, more than half of those polled–54 percent–thought that campaigns had become more negative than ever.

And in a revealing finding, more than 70 percent were disgusted by candidates who brought up an opponent’s extramarital relationships before the person held office. But that’s exactly the direction the campaign headed last night.

Going into the debate, Trump was reeling from the “hot-mic” scandal.

He boasted about how he used his “celebrity” to take advantage of women in the crudest way. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” he crowed.

Trump also bragged about trying to seduce a married woman… without luck.

“I did try and f-ck her. She was married,” Trump said.

“I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

At the time, Trump was newly married to his third and current wife Melania, who stood by her man last night.

In an effort to “normalize” his behavior, Trump held a news conference with four women who allegedly were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton during his time in public office in Arkansas.

Monica Lewinsky, the intern with whom Bill definitively had an affair while president, did not attend.

Trump tied Hillary to Bill’s indiscretions by saying she “enabled” him and disparaged the women who accused him.

Then, during the debate, he tried to minimize his incident by apologizing and describing his comments as simply “locker room” banter.

Clinton may have avoided some of the backlash against her negative debate comments because the Trump “hot mic” scandal was not of her making.

Trump, on the other hand, dredged up Bill’s 20-year-old scandal in a pretty transparent effort to smear her.

If anything, the debate proved negative campaigning has its limits.

Trump would have done much better sticking to the theme that got him there–making America great again.

Instead, he came off as vengeful and vindictive, and that played right into Clinton’s hands… again.

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