What Donald Trump must do tonight

Donald J. Trump and Hillary R. Clinton at the 1st Presidential Debate, Sep 26, 2016. (c) Fox News

Tonight is the second and final debate of the 2016 U.S. Presidential season. It will run 90 minutes,
I say it’s the final debate – even though there is a third debate scheduled. I can’t imagine it will ever take place. Because, tonight, one of two things will happen:

  • Either this debate will go well for Trump, in which case he’ll finish on a high and cancel the final event, saying “the media has rigged the whole process anyway so Americans can’t hear the truth. I’ll campaign directly with Americans so they can hear the truth directly from me.”
  • Or, this debate will go badly for Trump. In which case, he’s done. He won’t quit or drop out. That doesn’t happen. But, he will lose.

Either way, Trump has nothing to gain from a third televised debate, so it isn’t going to happen.

Trump lost the first debate after it was over

My first thoughts on the first debate were that neither candidate had done what they needed to do during the first debate. But, Trump subsequently lost the first debate – in the week that followed it. Sound odd? Well, that’s how politics works.

Trump is not running against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. He’s running against the Political Establishment – and that includes the Republican Party. That’s the secret to his success. Millions of Americans are fed up with the status quo of politics: a pox on all their houses, is the mantra of the day.

Of course, the downside to waging war on the establishment is that the establishment is big and powerful; it has lots of resources. Trump does not and has not built a very good, big team to help him campaign.

Trump lost the post-debate war because, for some reason, it bruised his ego and made him angry. While he was on message before the debate, he lost his narrative entirely after the event and still hasn’t regained it. To succeed, he needs to toughen his skin (again) and find some discipline. Just like his Vice-Presidential running-mate Mike Pence did.

Pence handily won the Vice Presidential debate, mopping the floor with Tim Kaine. But, the bigger, better, more professional Democratic Party communication team won the post-debate for their guy. By changing the narrative. They convinced the main stream media (who were happy to be convinced) that Pence had refused to defend Donald Trump. And, what does it mean if the VP candidate won’t even defend his own boss?

That, of course, is simply false. Anyone who saw the debate watched Pence masterfully defend Donald Trump against every charge, turning every attack back onto Kaine. But, that’s not what the record will show, because Trump has neither the communication staff who can drive the message, nor the allies who are willing to spin for him.

Trump must do 3 things tonight

To have a chance at winning this election – and it’s a slim chance – Trump must do three things tonight.

  1. He must be disciplined.  He has to stick with his key messages, which have worked remarkably well for him so far, and which Mike Pence used with great success. They are:
    1. Make America Great Again.  He must avoid the ad hominem attacks on the Clintons and, instead, focus his remarks on his successful high-level rhetorical remarks that he will Make America Great Again. It means whatever it means – to whomever hears it; it’s something different for everyone, but it’s always positive.  And, it’s on the damned hat for chrissakes.
    2. That’s what you get from the establishment.  Everything that’s bad or has ever happened in a way somebody doesn’t like is because “that’s what you get from the political establishment in this country. If you elect the same old, same old type of politician, you’ll get more of the same. This country needs a change.”
    3. They’ll say anything to stop me. Every single attack against Trump can be turned back with a simple phrase: “You/they/she/media will say absolutely anything to prevent me from winning this election and putting and end to the establishment that has provided them and their elite friends with perks, benefits and riches at the expense of hardworking Americans.”
  2. See Above.
  3. See Above.

Even if Trump sticks to these three messages, he’ll have a hard time winning, because he has few friends left to spin for him in the mainstream media.  And, he hasn’t hired a campaign team that can coordinate those friends if they did exist.

But, if he can’t maintain his discipline for 90 minutes, then Hillary Clinton is right: he doesn’t deserve to be President.