Hillary Clinton hopes that smart beats glib in tonight’s debate
WASHINGTON – In a little over 12 hours from now Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face-off in the most watched political event in history. There could be as many as 100 million viewers tuning in for a showdown with the power to upend an increasingly close race.
Everyone expects Hillary Clinton to win and that has her concerned. She is after all the most prepared debater in political history. She is smarter, more polished and has a better command of all of the issues and she concerned because Trump has such an orthodox debating style.
This is big night for Clinton who if she can get Trump off his game, it could be the game changer, she has been waiting for all campaign. Getting Trump to implode or attack her is key to winning the debate.
The clash comes at a crucial moment for Clinton. The Democrat’s summer lead has dwindled in recent weeks amid fresh scrutiny of her private email server, a bout with pneumonia and more disciplined performances by her opponent. Polling averages now show Clinton with a narrow national advantage. Surveys of crucial battleground states—including Ohio, Florida, Nevada and North Carolina—are within the margin of error, while Trump has pulled ahead in Iowa and shaved Clinton’s cushion in Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin.
One challenge for Clinton is higher expectations. Some advisers are telegraphing that she will, as ever, be the overly prepared technocrat who can tick through detailed specifics on everything from tax policy to Tel Aviv airport access for American airliners. Others caution that Clinton is a by-the-book candidate who thinks everyone on the debate stage—rival and moderator alike—should heed the pre-arranged rules. Deviation there could put her off her game, and complaining about it later carries risks: aides don’t want the first female nominee of a major party to get branded as a whiner. It’s one thing to interrupt a foreign minister on policy disagreements in private, and another to cut off a political rival in public even if he veers outside the parameters of established fact or social norms.
Then there is the Republican. Clinton’s team and Trump’s boosters are equally unsure which version of the billionaire will show up: the braggart or the businessman? Clinton is preparing for both, although her top advisers worry the split-track preparations have left each option under-explored. The leading advice is to have Clinton behave the same way regardless, with just one or two prepackaged retorts at the ready for each of Trump’s possible provocations. “She has to be herself,” one adviser who is not in the room with Clinton says. “She already has the honest-and-trustworthy problem without showing up as someone she isn’t. She’s a nerd. She has to own that.”