Donald Trump Set The Debate Bar Low, So Hillary Clinton Really Needs To Aim High
The first presidential debate will take place on Monday, and this could be Hillary Clinton's chance to reclaim control over the narrative and no longer be on the ropes about her emails, her charity, and, yes, her health. I believe the debate stage is a prime moment for Clinton to come in with a pro-active effort to focus to her strengths, rather than merely highlighting that her opponent, Donald Trump, is worse or that her flaws are not that bad. However, that will mean Clinton has to re-shift her strategy and fully bury the "running out the clock" approach.
Clinton has been inundated with questions about her use of a private email server and about her family's charity, the Clinton Foundation, often at the expense of issues like reproductive rights and foreign policy. Those latter topics are where her experience and policy knowledge could make her look stronger than her opponent.
It seems clear that Clinton is trying to paint herself as above what she calls Trump's "rash and reckless temperament." But this strategy can easily backfire. Yes, her line at the Democratic National Convention that a "man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons" was not only memorable, but powerful — and her post-convention bump may be a sign of its effectiveness.
However, her numbers have fallen, the race has tightened, and pointing out Trump's negatives isn't enough. She needs to highlight her strengths — especially her concrete experience and clear policies. You know, the "wonky" but incredibly important qualities that make her a compelling presidential candidate.
It's no secret that Clinton's presidential opponent would be historically inexperienced (and his critics would point out that may the least of his flaws, between insulting a Gold Star family and accusing a judge of being unqualified because of his Mexican heritage). However, the Republican presidential candidate has transformed this inexperience into an edge throughout the campaign. It's been promoted as an advantage by Trump himself - he's a Washington outsider! - but in the hands of an apt debater, Trump's inexperience could make him look weak or foolish.
Here's the extra challenge for Clinton: Trump has said so many ridiculous things this election that many have wondered if he's set the bar so low for his debate performance that he's bound to come off relatively impressive. In this case, it's up to Clinton to wipe the floor — not with Trump's lack of knowledge but with her expertise and ideas.
Ultimately, if she wants to win on Nov. 8, Clinton needs to more than show that Trump doesn't have the skills, experiences, or knowledge temperament to be president. She is going to have to resoundingly prove that she does.