(CNN)In the last third of the final debate, Donald Trump fell apart.
He’d gotten in some hits on Hillary Clinton and was well on his way to turning in his best performance of the three presidential debates.
Then, he refused to say he’d accept the election’s results. And he called Clinton “such a nasty woman.”
Any gains Trump had made were undone, and he blew his last big, nationally televised chance to broaden his base — making a case to women, moderates and disaffected Republicans whose rejection has left him far behind in the national polls.
Here are CNN’s takeaways from the final debate of the 2016 presidential race:
Trump refuses to accept election’s outcome
“In the 1980s, I was working to reform the schools in Arkansas. He was borrowing $14 million from his father to start his businesses. In the 1990s, I went to Beijing and I said women’s rights are human rights. He insulted a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, called her an eating machine,” Clinton said. “And on the day when I was in the Situation Room, monitoring the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was hosting the ‘Celebrity Apprentice.'”
The results: A CNN/ORC instant poll found 52% of debate watchers viewed Clinton as the winner compared to 39% who felt the same about Trump.
Voters’ lack of faith in Trump’s temperament and leadership capacity, polls show, are among his biggest political liabilities.
On Wednesday he offered a glimpse at how he measures effective leaders.
Trump praised Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad — who has used chemical weapons — as better than American leaders. “He’s just much tougher and much smarter than her and Obama,” he said.
He also continued to refuse to distance himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin — or acknowledge that intelligence officials have said Russia is responsible for hacks into Democratic operatives’ email accounts.
“This is not my best friend,” Trump said. “But if the United States got along with Russia, wouldn’t be so bad.”
It was a window into Trump’s thinking: Strength — almost to the exclusion of all else — is paramount, all challenges must be met and no slight can go without rebuttal.
It was the same thinking that led Trump to air his personal grievance with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the opening minutes of the debate — and to weigh in when Clinton mocked him for complaining that when “The Apprentice” didn’t win awards, Trump “started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.”
“Should have gotten it,” Trump said.
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