No Need to Consult The Polls: Rumblings of a “Slick Willie” Strategy Reveal Winner of First Debate

Posted on September 29, 2016 by

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My first impression  following Monday nights much-anticipated presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was that neither candidate did much to help or hurt themselves during the proceedings. As I expected,  Clinton was well prepared and, not necessarily as expected, kept her cool when Trump tried to rattle her. Aside from multiple interruptions and some face-making, The “Donald” didn’t do or say anything too outrageous or patently offensive He even managed to look at least somewhat presidential at times. People who have pretty much made up their minds are nearly impossible to dissuade, but I didn’t feel that much was said that would influence undecided Republicans or independents. From an obective point-of-view I felt that Clinton probably prevailed, but that it wouldn’t move the needle so-to-speak. As analysis from the debate began to circulate on Tuesday, it occurred to me that it really matters not so much what the pundits or even his supporters think, but only  what Trump thinks. And his current state-of-mind could very well cost him the election. I keep waiting for some rational (presidential?) choices, but it appears I may be waiting for a while.

Signs of Frustration

True to Trump’s style he was quick to praise himself in a brief interview with CNN immediately following the debate.  After stating that he did “tremendously well” in the polls, he extolled his  personal restraint regarding his decision not to bring up former President Bill Clinton’s various indiscretions on the debate stage. When pressed by reporter Dana Bash what, exactly, he had held back, he coyly suggested  what potentially comes next. Recent history has shown us that Trump will lash out when cornered. If the next debate isn’t going to plan and Clinton continues to abuse him with pesky numbers and an unflappable demeanor, hyper-aggressive primary Donald could make an appearance. He may well already privately believe that this is his only option.  Upon watching the entire debate a second time and viewing highlights, I believe that there were multiple instances where Trump was on the verge of going full-blown unpresidential.  The next morning, he made matters worse by criticizing former Miss Universe Alicia Machado on Fox & Friends. Clinton sought to highlight Trump’s misogynistic behavior by mentioning Machado by name near the end of the debate. In that moment Trump seemed unsure of how to respond, but in uniquely Trumpian fashion he found a way to make matters worse saying of Machado on Tuesday:

“…the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible.” 

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There is no valid explanation for Trump’s statements, but amazingly he has continued to press the issue. Wednesday night on The O’Reilly Factor Trump was at it once again. Similar to his claims that he was the impetus behind  the release of President Obama’s birth certificate, he praised himself for his actions regarding Machado. He said to host Bill  O’Reilly: “This is a person… she did not do well. She had a lot of difficulties and, you know, they wanted to fire her…I saved her job…I said, ‘Don’t do that. Let her try and lose the weight.” It is Trump’s habit to deflect criticism in this manner, but this time he appears to be picking a fight with a demographic that he cannot afford to further alienate (Clinton currently leads Trump 51% to 34% among women.) if he is going to have any chance at winning the election; college educated women.

A Different Strategy For the Next Debate?

Although his hardcore supporters  will always remain enthusiastic, several  Republican lawmakers expressed disappointment over what they saw as his failure to capitalize on opportunities to press Clinton over her personal e-mail server, the Clinton Foundation or Benghazi. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told The Washington Post: “If anything, I think he held back in a few instances where maybe he should have gone on the attack.” Going on the offensive is what worked for Trump in the Republican primaries, but his comments about Machado are just plain bizarre. If anything, Trump should be downplaying Clinton’s comments about him, not ensuring that they remain on the front page. In addition, Trump’s advisors are hinting that husband Bill’s exploits may very well be the next topic for discussion.A report by NBC News quotes several of those closest to Trump that the matter should be firmly on the table. An idea of the flavor of such a campaign was provided by former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who said that Clinton was “too stupid to be president” for not discovering the Lewinsky affair on her own. In a primary contest attacking the Clintons makes for an easy mark, but in the general election it is virtually guaranteed to get Trump beat. The same NBC report cites numerous examples of research by campaign strategists on both sides of the aisle, and there is a strong consensus that attacking Hillary for scandals of Bill’s making is a not a viable option. From NBC News again:

“Tim Miller and Katie Packer, two Republican strategists who oppose Trump, conducted focus groups before the primaries where they tested attacks tied to the former president’s sex scandals with female swing voters. ‘These voters were completely turned off and disgusted by it…We found time and again those attacks turned Hillary into a victim and that it engendered sympathy for her.”

A mountain of evidence suggests that this strategy should not be used. It doesn’t make any sense for the Trump campaign to choose this option as most of the people who care at all about such things are already firmly in the Trump camp. There is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost by pursuing  this option. It is almost as if Trump feels like he has already lost.

And The Winner Is…

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Donald Trump may yet surprise me by working very hard to prepare himself for the second debate and  having a serious policy discussion that sways undecideds such as myself, but at this point this seems unlikely. It wasn’t obvious to me in real-time, but the debate, and the election, may have been won the moment Hillary Clinton stood up to an insecure bully. I doubt that I will ever be a real fan of Hillary, but I am thankful that she is demonstrating Trumps lack of fitness for the job as opposed to  Russia’s Putin or Kim in North Korea exposing him.

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