(Charleston, West Virginia) – The first of the three 2016 Presidential debates is Monday night at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York. Each candidate could have a make-or-break night in what is traditionally the most watched debate in the series. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:
“Don’t ‘Cough-Up’ the Football!” – For Hillary Clinton, health is a big concern. I am assuming she’ll be rested and recovered from her pneumonia; but, if not, watch out. She had a terrible coughing fit at a campaign stop in Ohio a few weeks ago and has had hoarseness issues in other speeches. If that happens again, it will surely raise voters' concerns about her well-being.
“The Comeback” – On the other hand, being "down for the count" and having underdog status could help. In 1984, President Reagan had a wandering, unfocused debate performance in the first contest. Many worried he was too old for a second term; but, when he was asked about the age issue in the second debate, he quipped, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." The crowd laughed and so, too, did Mondale. The election was over that night. A strong Clinton performance could be similarly disarming.
“First Do No Harm” – In medicine, the Hippocratic Oath states,"First Do No Harm!" The same applies to politics. In 2008, many observers opined that Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin would be crushed by her vastly experienced opponent, Senator Joe Biden. Palin – while not stellar – made no gaffes and held her ground. Biden was a voice of experience; and, in the end, Biden won by his statesmanship. Yet, Palin was a winner, too, because she held her own in a debate where she was projected to be crushed. The lesson for Trump is to be confident, poised, and knowledgeable against someone who has far more debate experience.
“Be Presidential!” – The biggest rap on Trump this year was that he was not Presidential and not diplomatic. That all changed when he went to visit the President of Mexico. Trump looked every bit the part of a national leader, and gained a lot of traction against the sometimes flat-footed Clinton. He needs to reprise that performance. Most observers have high expectations for Clinton’s debate performance, given her years of political experience. Trump needs to counter that by coming across as competent and with the right temperament for the job. If he goes off on some odd tangent or rant, he will be his own worst enemy. He needs to remember this is a one-on-one debate, not the free-for-all chaos of 17 candidates in the original GOP debates.
“The Bush Bombshell” – It’s a matter the moderator must raise during the debate: President George H.W. Bush says he’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. There have been eleven U.S. Presidents in my lifetime, and I can’t remember another former leader casting a ballot for the opposition party nominee. Normally, endorsements – whether by newspapers or special interest groups – don’t amount to a hill of beans. But a former President’s blessing is gold, especially among an uncertain electorate. Only 43 people have ever held this job over the course of 230-plus years. Bush's is one vote - not a formal endorsement - but it carries weight!
“The Attacks” – The attacks have to have a laser-beam focus. There can’t be any nuance. The candidates must get right to the point. No one needs a political science lecture. Trump needs to say: “Hillary, they called for help in Benghazi, and you failed to respond!” and, “Hillary, the FBI Director said you were ‘careless and reckless’ with classified emails.” Clinton, in turn, needs to say, “Republican President George H.W. Bush is voting for me; what does that say about you, Donald?” And, “How can you manage the economy, when you drove four companies into bankruptcy?” They both need to be pointed, succinct, and harsh; and let the chips fall where they may!
“Third Parties?” – It disappoints me greatly to see no third party candidates on the stage, though that could still change in later debates. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green nominee Jill Stein have collectively polled anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the vote. The threshold for any one candidate to be on the debate stage is 15 percent in national polls. But how do you achieve 15 percent unless you have a forum where you can express your views and persuade an audience? The rigged, traditional two-party debates need to lower that threshold to anywhere from five to seven percent. Let people have a voice!
Who is your prediction for the winner for the first Presidential debate, and why? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
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