Hillary Clinton Really Got Under Donald Trump's Skin When She Said He "Choked"

During the third and final presidential debate, if you watched closely, you could spot the moment that GOP nominee Donald Trump took Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's bait ― Clinton saying Trump "choked" during his Mexico trip clearly got under the real estate magnate's skin, seemingly provoking his first interruptions of the night. It was a moment that could easily go overlooked, but in light of the dramatic shift in tone it ushered in on Trump’s part, it shouldn’t. It was reminiscent of when Clinton raised Trump’s privileged background, and early financial support from his father to jump-start his career during the first debate.

Basically, in both cases, Clinton slipped in a casual, understated jab at Trump's notoriously testy ego ― in the former case, suggesting that he isn't the dynamic self-made man he purports to be. That caused him to immediately start defending his self-made status, and it clearly knocked him off his game, setting off the bombastic, interrupting, and caustic style that's served him so poorly.

And during the third debate, he fell into virtually the exact same trap: immediately after Clinton accused him of choking in front of President Enrique Pena Nieto, he shook off moderator Chris Wallace's question to defend his Mexican trip.

It was a stark change, because up until that point, Trump had seemingly tempered his typically aggressive, irritated style, settling into a more controlled (if simmering) attitude. But after Clinton dangled that tantalizing bit of bait, the GOP nominee more or less slipped into the same bizarre, explosive eruptions that led a majority of viewers (in scientific polls) to determine him the loser of the first two debates.

It's also notable as a case study for the argument Clinton keeps making about temperament ― the effortlessness with which she seemed able to rankle and rile Trump up speaks to how easy it appears to be to bait him. That's the crux of that oft-repeated line she's used in recent months, about how someone so easily baited by tweets shouldn't be in charge of America's nuclear arsenal. If Clinton hopes to illustrate that point clearly, these subtle, occasional jabs that so clearly get under his skin are an extremely effective method. And sadly for the Donald, he won't get another chance ― tonight was his last.