FIRST AIRED: December 30, 2016

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00:00:00
>>
MUSIC]
00:00:04
At the end of this evening I'm going to blamed for everything that's ever happened.>> Why not?>> Why not, yeah.>> Americans were riveted by the US presidential debates in 2016, but this year they didn't play their usual role in the outcome. Between the primaries and the general election, there were more than two dozen debates, many drawing record viewership.
00:00:23
With Donald Trump, for the most part, center stage, what stood out was the scorching rancor. It was unlike anything we had seen before.
CROSSTAL
]>> He's a chaos candidate.>> He'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States.>> No puppet, no puppet.>> And it's pretty clear-
00:00:38
>> You're the puppet.>> On the Republican side, the debates helped winnow a massive field.>> And then the memorized 25 second speech.>> And it was a debate fiasco set up by Chris Christie that did in Marco Rubio.>> This notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing is just not true.
00:00:53
>> There it is.>> He knows exactly what he's->> There it is, the memorized 25 second speech.>> That's->> The Democratic debates, though less heated, had their own flash points.>> I am very proud to be the only candidate up here who is not raising huge sums of money from Wall Street.
00:01:08
>> And the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out.>>
APPLAUSE
>> In the general election, Hillary Clinton was judged by viewers to have won all three debates.>> So a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.
00:01:24
>> Clinton had several moments where she got under Donald Trump's skin.>> Such a nasty woman.>> And she even shimmied at one point, in a show of self-confidence.>> Woo, okay.>>
LAUGH]>>
Every step of the way.>> Mr Trump, I->> Excuse me.>> With his instinct for drama, Trump had moments that pundits were sure would be damaging, if not fatal, including his response to the leaked tape.
00:01:49
>> You can do anything. That was locker room talk. I am not proud of it.>> And then there was his threat jail Hillary Clinton. And his refusal to say that he would honor the results of the election if he lost. But his base stayed with him, and the one message that Trump hit over and over again was his promise of change.
00:02:06
I agree, she's got experience, but it's bad experience. And this country can't afford to have another four years of that kind of experience.>> We are at->> Ultimately, it was that outsider message that won the day.