The first debate is when this campaign becomes a thing. Unlike the endless cycle of “scandals” now, the debates can really move the needle. High stakes stuff.
The NY Times looked at the candidates’ debate prep so far. Some highlights:
Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage.
They are undertaking a forensic-style analysis of Mr. Trump’s performances in the Republican primary debates, cataloging strengths and weaknesses as well as trigger points that caused him to lash out in less-than-presidential ways.
As Mrs. Clinton pores over this voluminous research with her debate team, most recently for several hours on Friday, and her aides continue searching for someone who can rattle her as a Trump stand-in during mock debates, Mr. Trump is taking the opposite tack. Though he spent hours with his debate team the last two Sundays, the sessions were more freewheeling than focused, and he can barely conceal his disdain for laborious and theatrical practice sessions.
Tellingly, I suspect both would govern this way as well. Clinton would get informed; Trump would wing it.
“I believe you can prep too much for those things,” Mr. Trump said in an interview last week. “It can be dangerous. You can sound scripted or phony — like you’re trying to be someone you’re not.”
Preparation of the issues won’t make you sound scripted and phony. Being scripted and phony will make you sound scripted and phony.
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. Mr. Trump, a supremely confident communicator, wants viewers to see him as a truth-telling political outsider and trusts that he can box in Mrs. Clinton on her ethics and honesty.
Except he doesn’t tell the truth and he’s not very transparent himself (tax returns, tax returns, tax returns…..)
Mr. Trump’s certitude — “I know how to handle Hillary,” he said — reflects his belief that the debates will be won or lost not on policy points and mastery of details, which are Mrs. Clinton’s strengths, but on the authenticity, boldness and leadership that the nominees demonstrate onstage. Mr. Trump is certain that he holds advantages here, saying Mrs. Clinton is likely to come across as a typical politician spouting rehearsed lines.
You can be sure that Trump will be using lines from his stump speech.
Now here’s the most interesting part:
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.
Mr. Schwartz, in an interview, declined to comment about any conversations with the Clinton campaign, but he said Mr. Trump would be vulnerable if Mrs. Clinton proved to be calm, deliberate and relentless in attacking Mr. Trump’s character, volatility and readiness to be commander in chief.
I don’t know if this is a bluff or not. I think Clinton should attack now and then, but mostly she should explain her policies (while pointing out that he has none). That seems to me to be the best tactic.