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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—October 16, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016


The third and final Presidential debate is Wednesday night, October 19. Republican nominee Donald Trump is clearly in trouble, but politics has often been called "the art of the possible.” With that in mind, this is my third and - thankfully - my last column about what each candidate should use for a debate strategy. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Give Us Your Plan” – Donald Trump’s best and last shot involves laying out the specifics of his agenda. He must - in very pointed fashion - say, “This is my jobs plan!”; “This is my defeat-ISIS plan!”; “This is my immigration plan!”; and, “This is my education plan.” Voters need to hear his vision – and to hear it in a specific agenda. This is his last chance to say, “This is who I am and why you should vote for me.”

“Attack! Attack! Attack!” – Hillary Clinton’s strategy needs to be a blitzkrieg attacking Trump's highly-tinged comments about women and their allegations of sexual impropriety involving Trump. I know. This sounds completely counter-intuitive given her husband’s similar pattern of behavior. But let’s face it. The “Access Hollywood” tapes gave her the spike in the polls this week. Plus, Trump has hurt himself on the counterattacks. It’s weird, but her response needs to be that “Hillary Clinton is running for President this year - not Bill Clinton.” Strange, but it’s a defense!

“Counterattack” – Trump needs to apologize for the “Access Hollywood” tapes and to say, “Look, that was 11 years ago. I’ve apologized; I’ve learned; and this campaign has changed me and my view of America.” When Clinton attacks him for his remarks, he needs to say, “Look, I was wrong. My behavior was out of line. But how is dwelling on this going to re-employ one displaced coal miner in West Virginia?” Oddly, he needs to make the very same argument that President Clinton made during the 1998 impeachment – that there are far more troublesome issues of concern to the American people. Yes, he needs to steal Bill Clinton’s playbook; and I say that as a political strategy – not in any way as a defense for their boorish behavior.

“Not the Counterattack” – Something that fell flat in the second debate was Trump’s accusation that Hillary Clinton was complicit in her husband’s behavior - that she attacked his accusers and demonized the women involved. This strategy is a mistake, because during the impeachment proceedings, the majority of people – rightly or wrongly – viewed Hillary Clinton as a victim of her husband’s indiscretions. She was a sympathetic figure – as any cheated-on spouse would be. Attacking Hillary for her husband’s behavior is not going to win Trump many votes among the dwindling undecideds at the 11th hour.

“The Three-Point Plan” – When I teach public speaking, I preach something known as “The Rule of Threes.” Basically, the rule states that when you give a speech, you are lucky if people remember three things about it. That’s why we always suggest starting with a joke, because it’s a memorable moment. Ronald Reagan was the master of this in politics. In 1980 he promised three things: 1) rebuild the national defense; 2) cut taxes; and, 3) shrink the size of government. Critics called it simplistic; defenders said it was a memorable mantra, and they were right, as Reagan won in a landslide. Wednesday night, Trump needs to give voters three simple policy reasons to vote for him.

“Sell Your Resume” – The Clinton campaign keeps preaching the line that she is the most experienced candidate ever to run for President. I think I’ve shown in previous columns that that is simply not empirically correct. Other nominees, such as James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and George H.W. Bush, had equally or far more impressive resumes. Nonetheless, Clinton has thirty-plus years in politics, so she needs to underscore it! Experience is a huge selling point in any job interview.

“The Math Problem” – The Trump slide has been starkest in the “Battleground States," which - up until a week ago – showed a very close contest nationwide. Trump was slightly or moderately ahead in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada. Those states account for 77 Electoral College votes. When you combine them with states that are already safe for Trump, he had 275 Electoral College votes, five more than he needed to win the White House. Today, he is behind in all five of the swing states that will decide this election. He must win in all five, or it’s over. Right now it’s not trending his way, so Wednesday’s debate is crucial.

“Being Presidential” – As I always say, being “Presidential” has no precise definition. But people know it, when they see it. Hillary Clinton – who is widely unpopular – showed it in the first two debates with the odd argument, “You may not like me, but I’m qualified for this job!” Trump has to show that, too. He needs the statesman-like appearancethat he exhibited on his trip to Mexico. That’s why he needs to take the high road on the sex-scandal stuff. It sounds weird, but his best defense is the Bill Clinton defense. Odd!

“The Fallout” – Trump needs to be unselfish and to think about collateral damage. Control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance. Democrats need a net gain of four seats, which would be a 50-50 tie; and Vice President Tim Kaine – as Senate President – would tip control to the Democrats. Right now, Democrats look to pick up Senate seats in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Republicans may pick up a seat in Nevada. The two seats “on the bubble” are in New Hampshire and North Carolina. If Hillary Clinton wins those two states, her coattails could lead to Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. Remember that only the Senate votes on Supreme Court nominees and foreign treaties. This is a big deal!

What would you do in the third debate if you were Trump or Clinton? Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurisMedia.com.


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