FORGET the fiery clashes between the presidential hopefuls, another individual stole the show in Las Vegas tonight.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace drew praise across the board for pushing both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the policies and scandals they needed to confront.
The moderator began by firmly telling the audience to avoid cheering and heckling during the final showdown, and put tough questions to both candidates.
The most outrageous moment of the debate came when Trump refused to say he would accept the outcome of the election. And it was Wallace who forced the Republican nominee to answer whether he stood by his previous claims that voting would be rigged.
The moderator asked Trump if he would accept the results of the election. But Trump only said he would “look at it at the time.”
Wallace noted that it was traditional for the loser to concede defeat, pressing him with: “Are you saying that you won’t uphold that principle?”
Trump answered: “I’ll keep you in suspense”.
Professor Simon Jackman, chief executive officer of the United Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, told news.com.au he thought the moderator did a great job of controlling Trump and Hillary and the audience.
There were fewer interruptions by the candidates than in the previous debates, with Wallace repeatedly warning the crowd to stay quiet. He exuded an air of quiet control, and was unafraid to interrupt and take the reins where necessary.
“I’m not a potted plant,” he warned Trump at one point. “I get to ask the questions.”
Prof Jackman said he felt Wallace gifted Trump early questions on abortion and the Supreme Court, which would have suggested to Republicans he was all that stood between him and Clinton electing left-leaning judges to the court.
“The first half hour or so were given to very Trump-friendly topics,” Prof Jackman said.
Others also thought he brought a conservative stance to proceedings when he told Clinton: “Your [jobs] plan is like Obama’s plan that produced the slowest growth since 1949.”
Trump seemed to approve, commenting: “Correct.”
But Prof Jackman said that “overall, I think he did a pretty good job.”
Viewers on both sides appeared to agree, with conservative commentator Brent Bozell calling Wallace “superb” and “fair”, Daily Show production manager Anthony De Rosa calling him a “fine fact checker” and the “strongest moderator of the three debates.”
There had been some concern about what sort of job Wallace would do since he was from right-wing Fox and had declared he would not be part of the “truth squad”.
Incredibly, he seemed to please the media. CNN said Wallace had produced a “sterling performance” while Slate said it was the first watchable debate, thanks in part to “controlling, imperfect, but ultimately successful” moderating job.
Even the candidates agreed Wallace was a winner.