In the process he probably delighted all the right-wing Trumpkins but put himself far outside the political and legal pale.
Only Richard Nixon, among recent presidents, tried to meddle with his Attorney General. That occurred during Watergate and he was forced out of office.
The key exchange was when, after Trump promised to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her, Clinton stated, “It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country."
TRUMP: "Because you would be in jail."
Now there’s a hanging judge if ever I saw one. A president like Trump with an immediate agenda to jail his main opponent would be catastrophic for the Republic. Surely even the right-wingers see that too?
Overall, the Sunday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants, which ran the same time as the debate, had nothing on the Trump/Clinton presidential debate when it came to low blows, collisions and plain old mayhem.
At the end, Donald Trump won by not losing too badly compared to the first debate (the CNN poll of second debate watchers had it 57 to 34 per cent for Clinton), but in the process he dashed hopes of the Republican Party leadership that he would get out of the race and avoid a possible election catastrophe for the party as a whole.
Many GOPers were distraught after the “Access Hollywood” sex tape and wanted Trump out of the race in order to save candidates further down the ticket.
But his ability to trade blows with Clinton and make threats to jail her no doubt hardened his core supporters and ended all talk of him stepping aside.
It seemed very unlikely, however, that Trump connected with the middle ground voters, that is suburban women, who are so vital to any late surge he desperately needs to win.
Trump also called Hillary “the devil.” As John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager stated, “Fortunately he is not in charge of the laws of this country." He added that calling Hillary Clinton the devil is “beneath a presidential candidate.”
The media certainly chimed in on the prosecution issue too. As the New Republic writer Alex Shepherd noted, “Donald Trump just promised to abuse his power as president and prosecute Hillary Clinton if elected.”
“The idea you are threatening to prosecute your opponent is new in American history,” stated Van Jones the CNN commentator.
Trump made it clear that he was going for the Clinton jugular in a desperate attempt to win. He stated that Bill Clinton was “in the history of politics the most abusive to women.”
However, having Trump, a serial womanizer with three wives and numerous affairs, prosecuting Bill Clinton as a serial abuser was the pot calling the kettle black.
In the end Trump did enough to stay in but not enough to win which will leave Democrats relieved. If he had been forced to drop out with a terrible performance the race, which now seems settled in Clinton's favor, would once again have become utterly unpredictable.
Now it is merely heading to its inevitable end.