By every objective measure, Hillary Clinton is decisively winning the presidential race. She has a strong lead in polling averages and her Republican opponent Donald Trump is failing to meet even the performance of 2012’s GOP loser, Mitt Romney.

But the corporate news media, which has obsessively covered Trump over the past year, has a profit incentive to make the race seem closer than it is — to get people to watch endless horserace coverage through November 9.

That is what explains the otherwise unexplainable reaction from pundits to Sunday night’s debate who tried to put a positive spin on a meandering and incoherent Trump performance. Ordinary viewers almost certainly didn’t agree. Judging by the results of CNN’s insta-poll, they thought Clinton won by a 57 to 34 margin.

“The first 20 minutes half an hour I thought Donald Trump was erratic and going off the rails and then I thought he turned it around to a degree,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said. “I think he prosecuted a case against Hillary Clinton that was effective, he stayed with a theme about that she’s been in Washington for a long time, it’s all words no action, and so I thought this was a much better debate performance than his first debate performance.”

“I think it’s his night, not a knockout, but his night on points,” CNN’s Michael Smerconish said.

“If his goal, his priority was to stop the bleeding on the right, then it may have succeeded in that….If Donald Trump needed to shore up his conservative base, his team is very happy,” John King said, while also noting that it would take more than that to win the election.

“But at least he stopped the bleeding among his own base,” Wolf Blitzer responded.

“When you consider the sheer media hell that Donald Trump has been through in the last 48 hours, that has to be considered at least a moral victory,” Fox’s Howard Kurtz said about Trump’s performance. “Many top Republicans have been bailing on this guy, he needed to convey a sense that he’s stabilizing his campaign. He might have done that.”

Piers Morgan tweeted his conclusion:

If the media simply admitted that the race is fundamentally over for Donald Trump, it would be admitting their goose has stopped laying golden eggs.