As a supporter of Hillary Clinton, it pains me that this list needs to be written. By virtue of her detailed policy proposals, her steady temperament, and her extensive experience in public service, Mrs. Clinton should win the first presidential debate by default. However, a significant percentage of the American electorate appears to believe in some sort of false moral equivalency between our two presidential candidates.
So without further ado, here are the strategies Hillary should employ to win Monday’s debate. For editor-in-chief Matthew Reade’s tips for Donald Trump, click here.
Look healthy and strong onstage.
Hillary Clinton once came close to fainting in public. Because of this, many Americans seem to believe she is secretly dying. They do not believe her perfectly reasonable explanation that she was suffering pneumonia. Instead, they have decided that she is hiding a more serious terminal illness.
Right-wing media outlets will seize on any sign of physical weakness that Hillary displays. If she wants to avoid a media firestorm speculating about her imminent death, Clinton should not even sneeze during the debate.
Do not sink to Trump’s level
During the primaries, Donald Trump ridiculed his rivals in the Republican nomination race by giving them nicknames, such as “Low-Energy Jeb” (for Jeb Bush), “Little Marco” (for Marco Rubio), and “Lyin’ Ted” (for Ted Cruz). Unlike the other candidates, Marco Rubio attempted to retaliate by making some jokes of his own about Trump’s hairstyle and manhood. But to voters, Mr. Rubio’s barbs seemed petty, and the Florida senator soon ceased to be a serious candidate for the nomination.
Mrs. Clinton should not repeat this fatal mistake. Instead, she should stick to substantive attacks against her opponent, as Mr. Trump’s lack of policy knowledge is what makes him most vulnerable.
Avoid ham-handed pandering.
The Clinton campaign usually runs like a well-oiled machine. However, Mrs. Clinton has made some cringe-worthy missteps when she has tried to pander to a specific audience. In July, her campaign posted a painful-to-read article entitled “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela,” including multiple references to the importance the candidate apparently places on “respeto,” in a bald-faced and cringeworthy attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters. Her Snapchat stories, designed to appeal to millennials, can be comical in their attempts to seem cool. In one embarrassing Snap, the camera zooms in on a beer before panning to a grinning Hillary, who exclaims “Just chilling in Cedar Rapids!”
If she wants to win the debate, Mrs. Clinton should avoid trying to seem like a Latina millennial. She isn’t one, and pretending to be comes across as artificial.
Let Donald be Donald
For reasons that have been covered endlessly elsewhere, Mr. Trump is a terrible candidate. He insults everyone, from crying infants to Gold Star families and Mexicans. Mrs. Clinton must do her best to make the presidential election a referendum on her opponent, rather than allowing distractions about her health or her charity to dominate the post-debate media narrative. To succeed in the debate, she should sit back and allow Mr. Trump to say objectionable things and offend major segments of the American electorate as he does so.
But at the very least, regardless of the outcome, Monday’s debate will make for entertaining television.
For Matthew Reade’s tips for Donald Trump, check out this link.