I guess that makes Trump the pony.
Hillary Clinton is determined to get under Donald J. Trump’s skin at Monday’s debate, and is testing attack lines to try to rattle him.
Mr. Trump is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of Mrs. Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.
The two candidates are taking vastly different approaches to what is expected to be one of the most widely watched presidential debates since Carter vs. Reagan in 1980. And their divergent strategies reveal how the candidates and their campaigns see the race, their strengths and their opponents’ weaknesses.
Mrs. Clinton has a thick dossier on Mr. Trump after months of research and meetings with her debate team, including analysis and assumptions about his psychological makeup that Clinton advisers described as critical to understanding how to knock Mr. Trump off balance. Mrs. Clinton has concluded that catching Mr. Trump in a lie during the debate is not enough to beat him: She needs the huge television audience to see him as temperamentally unfit for the presidency, and that she has the power to unhinge him.
Mr. Trump, in turn, is approaching the debate like a Big Man on Campus who thinks his last-minute term paper will be dazzling simply because he wrote it.
He has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.
There is a bunch more but it doesn’t get any better. (For some strange reason Democrats think the NYT is pro-Trump.)
Trump has already won the expectations game. Yesterday Chris Hayes tweeted:
Off-the-record Trump advisor: “Frankly we’re almost 100% sure he’s gonna just drop trow and moon Hillary. We’re terrified.”
Hayes later deleted the tweet and now claims it was a joke, but it really does capture the situation – all Trump has to do to win is show up and not show his ass. Hillary, on the other hand, can’t win without Trump’s help. Somehow she has to get Donald to show his ass.
If this were an academic debate Hillary would win easily. She is a policy wonk who has spent years mastering the minutia of government and polishing her presentation. But none of that will matter. Presidential debates are performances, and Donald Trump is a master showman.
I expect Hillary to attack Trump early and often. Her goal will be to piss him off so that he loses his temper on stage. I’m sure she has memorized some quotable lines she can use in both direct attacks and as comebacks to things he might say. She needs to knock him out.
All Trump needs to do is survive. He doesn’t need to land any punches. He doesn’t need to dazzle people with his command of policy. If I was him I would make the argument that the president is the CEO of the federal government, and he will hire experts and delegate the details to them. He could point out that he built a construction empire but he’s not an architect.
Trump’s goal is to look presidential. According to Hillary and the media Trump is a hot-tempered idiot with a yuge ego. I expect Trump to be warm and funny and relatively low-key. Remember when Reagan said “There you go again” in response to Carter’s strident attacks? That’s what I’m expecting to see Monday night.
This will be the first of three debates. I expect to see three different Trumps. I expect to see the same Hillary at every debate.
Game changer: If Hillary has an extended coughing fit or some kind of health “episode” during one of the debates then Melania can start shopping for a gown to wear to the inaugural ball.