Hillary Clinton’s Debate Strategy Could Totally Backfire

Even the most rabid Hillary Clinton haters usually agree with her supporters on one thing: She is extremely smart and hard-working. A Fox News poll in June found that 82 percent of voters describe Clinton as intelligent. The graduate of Wellesley and Yale Law School has a reputation as a workaholic, to the point where New York Times columnist David Brooks once pointed to her over-prepared presentation style as the the reason she is often disliked. Early reports of the Clinton campaign's debate prep suggest that the former secretary of state will be playing to this strength when facing down Donald Trump.

According to a New York Times report, her team is "undertaking a forensic-style analysis of Mr. Trump’s performances in the Republican primary debates," speaking to longtime Donald Trump associates like the ghostwriter of his book Art of the Deal, and poring over "voluminous research" on her opponent. In contrast, Trump is apparently prepping for the presidential debates the same way I am: by shooting the bull with some friends. According to The Washington Post, Trump "summons his informal band of counselors — including former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, talk-radio host Laura Ingraham and ousted Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes — to his New Jersey golf course for Sunday chats. Over bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and glasses of Coca-Cola, they test out zingers and chew over ways to refine the Republican nominee’s pitch."

This is the most unsurprising report I've encountered all election. There's a big test coming up, so Clinton memorizes the textbook. Trump apparently just assumes he'll wing it and pass like he has so far. It's Hermione Granger vs. Draco Malfoy.

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But while Clinton is doing her usual thing and massively over-preparing, The New York Times report suggests that she's doing so in a way that seems to give up on exactly what she's best at — emphasizing substance over style. As the report noted, "Mrs. Clinton, a deeply competitive debater, wants to crush Mr. Trump on live television, but not with an avalanche of policy details; she is searching for ways to bait him into making blunders... The Clinton camp believes that Mr. Trump is most insecure about his intelligence, his net worth and his image as a successful businessman, and those are the areas they are working with Mrs. Clinton to target."

Clinton is good at lots of thing. I have confidence in her ability to stand in front of all of America and make an impassioned, policy-based argument on any number of topics. And going up against a guy unable to figure out a coherent position on his most central issue seems like the best time to do it. But I have literally zero faith in her as an insult comic, especially against perhaps the most accomplished insult comic of all time (because Don Rickles never got in a beef with the Pope).

Remember in the primaries, when Marco Rubio decided that the way to fight Trump was to beat him at his own insult game? It was terrible.

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Don't be Marco Rubio, Hillary! You're better than that!

Joking aside, this is also just disappointing to the nerdy part of me that wants elections to be battles of ideas. That hope died long ago, but with the debates — the only time that we'll have an actual moderator holding the candidates to some standards — I had thought that we'd maybe see a brief moment of seriousness. 

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Oh well. I guess Trump will just brag about his penis again.

Images: Bustle/Caroline Wurtzel; Giphy.com

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