Trump Goes ‘Presidential’
Trump’s biggest advantage heading into the debates is the low expectations that the media, and many voters, have for his performance. Though Americans dislike both candidates, polls show that a majority view Trump as unserious and unqualified for the presidency. At 9 p.m. on Monday night, he has 90 minutes to show them otherwise.
For all of her shortcomings as a politician, Clinton has been a solid if unspectacular debater in each of the campaigns she’s run, including in the many primary match-ups with Bernie Sanders. She’s consistently well-prepared on policy, stays on message, and knows how to throw a punch. And as her first vanquished opponent, Rick Lazio, can attest, Clinton always seems to benefit when Republicans overreach in their attacks on her, engendering sympathy even from voters not favorably disposed toward her.
Her allies believe that if the debate pits a sober and substantive Clinton against an erratic, aggressive, mean-spirited Trump, she’ll all but clinch a victory she’s already favored to win.
Which is why the biggest curveball Trump might throw at Clinton is one entirely devoid of his famous shtick. Until recently, Trump had enjoyed relative success by displaying more discipline, hewing closer to his core message of economic populism, and focusing his attacks on Clinton’s main vulnerabilities—the perception that she is secretive and dishonest. Moreover, Trump’s newly-installed campaign team has consciously tried to present him as “presidential” to attract wavering voters who want change but are unsure if he is steady enough for the job.
The debate Monday is Trump’s best—and one of his last—opportunities to change the well-ingrained perception that he is unfit for the Oval Office. Clinton is the quasi-incumbent in this race, and Trump has to chance, for the first time, to appear on-stage as her equal.
What if, instead of hurling insults at “Crooked Hillary,” loudly complaining to Lester Holt like an NBA coach works the refs, and denigrating racial and ethnic minorities, Trump keeps calm and delivers the message about jobs, national security, and reversing American decline that has clearly been resonating with voters across the country? Nothing succeeds like a well-executed surprise, and that Donald Trump might appeal to suburban, college-educated women who have deserted him so far and who are crucial to his chances for a comeback.
Trump Goes Hard on Clinton Scandals
Trump is going to play nice? Please.
The biggest argument against “presidential” Donald Trump showing up at Hofstra is that the real Donald Trump hates that version of Donald Trump. As the candidate himself has made clear time and again, he does not like to be handled, reined in, toned down. Trump the impolitic braggart disposed of 15 Republican contenders in the primary, and he’s been salivating at the chance to take on Hillary Clinton ever since.