Everybody wants to give the presidential candidates advice on how to act in tonight’s second presidential debate. As noted elsewhere, Ted Cruz, who was a debating champion in school, and proved to be “second best” in the primary debates, has offered to give Donald Trump the benefit of his wisdom. By all accounts, Trump declined. Hillary Clinton also got advice—also from an odd place—Hillary got advice from Trump, during his Thursday town hall rally.
Hillary Clinton isn’t prepping for the second presidential debate — she’s relaxing, Donald Trump claimed Thursday. “That’s not debate prep, she is resting,” he said in New Hampshire at a town hall-style forum — the same format as his looming face-off with Clinton.
“She wants to build up her energy for Sunday night, and you know what, that’s fine, but the narrative is so foolish. I’m here for one reason: I love the people of New Hampshire. I said I was going to be here and I’m here, very simple,” he continued.
The Wall Street Journal is giving Trump a handful of pointers.
1. At this point, style matters more than substance. Neither Tim Kaine this week nor Donald Trump during his first encounter with Hillary Clinton did themselves any favors with their constant interrupting and generally poor behavior. . .
2. Does Mr. Trump have a strategy that goes beyond the debate? Tim Kaine’s performance on stage wasn’t impressive, but he did well at setting up Mike Pence for campaign ads. Six times he challenged Mr. Pence to defend statements of Mr. Trump’s, and six times Mr. Pence passed. . .
3. Will either candidate make fun of themselves? Ronald Reagan’s line making fun of his own age won that debate against Walter Mondale in 1984. Self-deprecating humor could be key for Mr. Trump given the widespread perceptions of his narcissism.
4. Whose reality do voters identify with? Mrs. Clinton is the status quo candidate, so she has to somehow defend the record of the Obama administration. She will cite statistics on unemployment and crime and note that she was part of the administration that killed Osama Bin Laden. To Donald Trump, the economy is terrible, there is blood on the streets in some cities and dangerous people are trying to come into this country. . .
5. Can Mr. Trump make himself and his business experience credible to swing voters? Polls show that people don’t think Donald Trump has the temperament or experience to be president. He must show how his business career is a worthy substitute for not having held elective office.
Meanwhile the Washington Post warns about five ways that a town hall debate can be extra difficult.
Questions posed by voters are often more personal — and compelling — than those asked by moderators. In town hall events during this year’s Democratic presidential primary, for instance, candidates had to answer a question about terrorism from a Boston Marathon bombing survivor and a question about the opioid epidemic from a former heroin addict.
1. The poorly worded question—Contrary to what your elementary school teacher told you, there is such a thing as a bad question — or, at least, a badly worded one. Take this audience question from a 2000 town hall debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore, for example: “Are either of you concerned with — are either of you concerned with finding some feasible way to lower the price of pharmaceutical drugs, such as education on minimizing intake, revamp of the FDA process or streamlining the drug companies’ procedures, instead of just finding more money to pay for them?”. . .
2. The poorly vetted questioner–If the questioners are billed as “uncommitted voters,” as they are for Sunday’s debate, then they better be just that. As we’ve learned from previous town hall events, the people who ask questions will be subjected to rigorous post-debate background checks by media partisans trying to prove bias against their preferred candidates.
3. The time check–George H.W. Bush checking his watch while a woman in the audience asked a question in 1992 is one of those moments that always shows up on lists of the worst debate gaffes. A front-page story in The Washington Post said the president’s time check — one of three that night — made him look “as if he wished the ordeal would end.”
4. The long, rambling question–Madam Secretary, before I ask my question, I have a quick comment, and that is that I was a lukewarm person for you before the Benghazi hearings. I watched all 11 hours, every second of it, and came away from that a gung-ho supporter of yours. . .I woke up one night thinking that maybe I could see, if Donald Trump was sitting here, maybe he’d punch [Rep. Trey] Gowdy out. . .Okay. Here’s the question, practically all of the comments that have been said for both — all three candidates tonight, about 99 percent, have been on some form of domestic policy. And yet, you know, as the former wife of a president and as the secretary of state, that the president of the United States is going to just spend more than 50 percent of his or her time on foreign policy issues. So therefore, I think it’s important for the public to kind of get a sense of where you may be coming from across the board philosophically. And the way I look at it is you could have a scale of say, one to 10, and on that scale, you would have none interventionist on one side at 1, and total interventionist on the other side as 10. As you think about all the issues that you’ve confronted as secretary of state, and then as the possibility of looking at issues into the future, where do you think you’ll land on that scale of one to 10?
5. The lack of follow-ups–Some town hall questioners come itching for a fight. Think of the time Herman Cain questioned Bill Clinton during a town hall event in 1994. More often, voters with questions are a bit star-struck in the presence of presidential candidates — and far too timid to follow up when they don’t get satisfactory answers.
The Washington Times is giving Trump advice.
Donald Trump was having a pretty good night in his first debate with Hillary Clinton until he lost his focus on the economy. “It’s the economy, Stupid,” was an invention of Bubba’s first campaign, and it’s good advice for anyone running for president. The economy — reduced to jobs and money in a taxpayer’s pocket — is always first on the mind of the voter. The Donald lost his way when he strayed into the weeds where Hillary was lurking with the bait to lead him to extraneous issues important mostly to him.
Donald Trump has to remember that Sunday night in the second debate at Washington University in St. Louis will be his last chance to overtake Hillary. . .
Sunday night’s debate — and the third and final debate, on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas — will be seen by a national television audience expected to number 80 million or more. It’s now or never for the Donald. He can take inspiration from the performance of Mike Pence, who resisted the temptation to rise to Tim Kaine’s bait, and kept the focus on Hillary and her manifold failures in public life going back to Arkansas. The Donald has an authentic opportunity that comes to few Americans, to become the president of the United States. He shouldn’t waste it on settling scores with private tormentors. Miss Universe, plump or not, is always nice to look at, but she’s irrelevant to a great national election.
Meanwhile, Vice gives the audience advice: five things to ask each candidate.
1. A lot of issues with the criminal justice system directly coincide with your husband’s time in office—the expansion of “broken windows” policing nationwide, the passage of mandatory minimum sentencing and harsh crime laws, and, as a result, the highest incarceration rates ever seen under a president. You have since apologized for using the word “superpredator” to describe gang members in the 90s and endorsed a lot of criminal justice reforms. What in your thinking changed and why, and why should those calling for reform in the system now trust your judgment?
2. You have long been a favored candidate among Wall Street donors. Your family’s foundation has also taken in a ton from big banks. Wells Fargo, a bank that was recently caught swindling millions of its customers, contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to your campaign. Why should people trust your administration to properly police the financial sector?
3. You say that you’re now against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which has become a contentious campaign issue. But what changed about the deal itself that no longer made it the “gold standard,” as you once called it? What lost your support? Is there anything that could change about it that would lead to you backing it again?
4. Libya has become a hotbed for extremism, and one of ISIS’s main targets, as refugees have been using the country as a safe getaway to Europe. You were one of the principal architects of the plan to take Muammar Gaddafi out in 2011. What went wrong there? Do you have any regrets at all?
5. Was the Associated Press report, which said that the Clinton Foundation’s donors made up more than half of your meetings as secretary of state, accurate? If not, why? Or in other words—can you please just clear the air about the foundation, in general? And, if you have time in the what always seems like less than two minutes we’re giving you, maybe the emails, too? Like, that dude who smashed two BlackBerries… what was that about? Please just explain it in a way ordinary people can understand.
1. In all your business and charitable dealings, have you ever attempted to avoid paying income tax in your entire life? Like, ever, ever. When was the last time you paid federal income tax?
2. Have you regretted anything you’ve ever said or done?
3. How much did they pay you to be in that Playboy video? Or did they just make a donation to the Trump Foundation?
4. I’m not calling you a racist, but look—you must know that some of your ardent supporters, like David Duke, for instance, are extremely bigoted people. Ronald Reagan once publicly disavowed the support of the Ku Klux Klan, writing, “Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse.” Do you similarly reject the support of such people? What do you think of these white supremacists?
5. A broad majority of your supporters express sentiments about economic anxiety, and this idea that the corporate and Washington, DC, elite has left them behind. Yet many of these feelings are created, and continually exasperated, by the historically wide income gap, and growing consolidation of economic and political power at the top—the rich are getting richer, and the poor, poorer, while corporations find cheap labor overseas, pay little to no income tax, and exert a massive amount influence over the government. Now, your tax plan would cut corporate taxes and income taxes for the rich, essentially giving the extremely wealthy an even freer pass—which would presumably further deepen this feeling of economic dread that drives your supporters’ angst and division from the rest of America. So, I guess what I’m trying to say here is this: What gives?