WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. presidential race is getting more detailed as two candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, start drilling down into policy specifics, giving Americans a break from the two bashing each other.

The race up until now has been one mostly built around trading punches, with each candidate trying to make the contest a referendum about the other candidate in recent weeks, highlighting each others' perceived missteps and making the case that the opponent would be a disaster for the United States.

But Wednesday night saw a nationally televised question and answer session with each candidate separately, giving Americans an idea of each candidate's policy ideas on a number of issues.

Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua that Republican candidate Trump came across as competent and able to answer questions about military and defense issues.

"That probably boosted viewers' sense that he could handle the job of president. However, he did not display much detailed knowledge of policy issues or put any plans on the table of how to handle major challenges," said West.

For her part, Democratic candidate Clinton displayed great expertise on a wide range of policy issues, showing she was knowledgeable and clearly in command of the subject matter, West said.

"She exudes a lot of confidence as the potential commander-in-chief. Her worse moments were having to defend her judgment and the way she handled classified materials," he said.

Still, Clinton is having problems coming across as personable and approachable in a country that wants its leaders to understand the struggles of ordinary Americans.

"She came across as defensive and that could hurt her with independent voters. It was clear she was annoyed at some of the questioning and she has to be careful that this does not disturb potential supporters," West said.

Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua that Trump's comments about a loss of American strength under President Barack Obama play well with his base, which feels that the U.S. has declined in strength while terrorism and migration pose significant threats to American safety.

But the comments that have hurt Trump are his remarks that praised the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mahaffee said.

Also Trump's comments about the esteem of American military commanders can be interpreted as insulting to those leaders in uniform who have spent their life in service for the country, he said, referring to some of Trump's comments Wednesday night that could be interpreted as insulting toward U.S. military brass.

As for Clinton, she appeared to be serious and experienced, and her statements of regret about her support for the Iraq War were an important appeal to her base, which has concerns about how muscular a Clinton administration would be in terms of foreign interventions, Mahaffee said.

"She was very careful about what she said when she was discussing the Obama foreign policy legacy, as she will be defending both his legacy and hers as Secretary of State as foreign policy debates continue," he said.

"For Clinton, it is clear that the issue of her handling of emails isn't going away," he said, referring to the ongoing scandal of Clinton's use of a personal email while secretary of state instead of a government-issued one, which critics said endangered U.S. national security.

While Clinton has answered numerous questions about the email scandal, the questions continue. And the candidate seemed irritated on Wednesday night when questions on the issue were asked.

"Clinton's annoyance about the emails reflects the candidate's and campaigns frustration that this issue continues to be raised even when they think they have addressed it," Mahaffee said.