During the football season every Sunday morning on CBS, ESPN and Fox panels of sportswriters, former coaches and former players analyze the upcoming games. By the time the first games start, at 1 pm, every play has already been made and every touchdown has been scored, so that it’s hardly worth watching them, were it not for the fact that sometimes something happens that the experts have not foreseen. Something similar is going on with the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A cable network like MSNBC will spend Sunday evening and all of Monday previewing the debate, and although I don’t regularly watch them I’m pretty sure that CNN and Fox News will do the same. I’m hesitant to add some thoughts of my own to the choir for fear of redundancy, but since this blog tries to be a full record of the campaign I’ll do so anyway, fresh off reading today’s New York Times, with a column by Frank Bruni telling the readers what Trump has to do to win, and a similar column about Clinton by David Axelrod. On top of this, Ross Douhat advises us to ‘expect the expected.’
Everybody seems to agree that Trump won’t lose part of his base of approximately 42% of the voters no matter how he performs in the debate, but that he won’t expand his base either, while Clinton has an opportunity to win back some of the voters who once planned to vote for her but since have become undecided. The leading theory is that Trump has to come across as restrained to appear ‘presidential,’ because his temperament is what voters have the most doubt about, but avoiding personal attacks on the Clintons, name calling and creating mayhem also contains a huge risk for him. It would turn the debate into a civilized exchange of ideas about policy, of which Clinton has many and Trump virtually none. His choice is therefore between coming across as a boor or as an airhead. Hillary Clinton’s biggest handicap is that she comes across as untrustworthy, largely because of the email ‘scandal,’ and since over a span of twelve months she has demonstrated that she cannot explain that away she should not even try to do that during this debate, but just apologize again if it comes up and try to move on to policy issues.
There are no clear policy areas where Trump could gain advantage over Clinton, but since he leads in the polls where it comes to handling the economy that is the area on which Clinton should focus her attacks. Trump’s tax plan is astoundingly irresponsible and would increase the deficit by trillions, with built in benefits for him and his family. Clinton will quote many prominent economists to illustrate that, while Trump only has a clown like Larry Kudlow backing him up.
With the police killings of two black men in Tulsa and Charlotte dominating the news, race relations are certain to be brought up, and since Trump has dubbed himself the ‘Law and Order’ candidate and called for reintroducing ‘stop and frisk’ on a national scale, its merits are going to be discussed. This is one of those areas where Trump won’t lose but Hillary can win votes.
After her campaign’s inviting Mark Cuban, who estimates Trump’s wealth at $150 million and has offered him $10 million to release his tax returns, to the debate, Trump has responded with inviting Jennifer Flowers, now an aging courtesan, suggesting that it will be a circus after all.