He was calmer, he didn't interrupt Hillary Clinton or the moderator (Chris Wallace) as often he did on the previous two occasions; and he seemed to be more focused and prepared. He seemed to be putting Hillary on the defensive on quite a few occasions.
The Republican presidential hopeful's trump card has always been that Hillary has experience, but it's a bad experience. Another is that Hillary only talks, never does or gets anything done.
Trump has no experience, and, therefore, has no baggage. People who are backing Trump are the ones who are willing to take the gamble to entrust the leadership of the US to someone who is not an original politician; and the hope is that he will fare differently, taking America out of the current problems.
But all the ground Trump seemed to be gaining finally, he lost with one answer: his refusal to say that he will accept the verdict of the election.
It was a very dangerous statement. I am sure Trump and even the audience didn't immediately get the full implications of that. What he said sounded more like what we are used to hearing in nations where democracy hasn't really taken root or in nations ruled authoritarian rulers.
Trump's pronouncement (like a few earlier too) didn't fit into the image of America the world has. In fact, his non-commitment has turned out to be the only real highlight of the debate. The rest of the debate was all on predictable lines.
For the record, here is the transcript of the relevant portions, which I am sure will go down in history.
Chris Wallace: ".... Your running mate Governor Pence pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, will absolutely accept the result of this election. Today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely, sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of the selection?"
Trump: "I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking anything now I will look at it at the time. What I've seen, what I've seen it so bad. First of all the media is so dishonest ..... "
Wallace: "But, sir."
Trump: " .... We will find out on November eighth but I think they’re going to see through it. ... "
Wallace: "But sir, there is a tradition in this country, in fact one of the prides of this country, is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign, that the loser concedes to the winner, not saying that you are necessarily going to be the you loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country, are you saying that you are not prepared now to commit to that principle?"
Trump: "What I'm saying now is I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?"
Of course, Trump isn't categorically saying that he won't accept the verdict.
However, he could have said something on these lines:
I am sure I won't have to make a concessions speech because I won't be the loser. It's Hillary who will have to. But since you asked the question, even though it's been a rigged election, I will make the same commitment that I will absolutely accept the result of the election. That's a great American tradition that I will honour.
If Trump had said this, he would have gained a few undecided voters, who knows may be even a few Democrat supporters sitting on the fence. He wouldn't have lost anything. And Wallace wouldn't have had to ask the more pointed supplementary question.
But then, that wouldn't have been Trump -- the aggressive, unpredictable, wildcard politician, who has progressed this far.