Monday, September 26, 2016

Round One

I won't even try to get into who won/lost tonight's Clinton/Trump debate (this cycle has frustrated far too many horse-race analyses).  Instead, a couple reflections on strategy:

Hillary Clinton continually attacked Trump.  Many of her policy answers pivoted to attacks on him, and she also assailed his character.  Throughout the campaign, Clinton has tried to make the campaign a referendum on him (something the questions at tonight's debate might have helped).  Interestingly, she also reversed strategy from earlier in the campaign.  For months, she has been trying to isolate Trump from the rest of the GOP.  Tonight, though, she instead tried to tie Trump to the GOP, suggesting that he was just a return to old Republican policies.  Clinton seemed throughout the night to be trying to rally the democratic base.  She presented more of a negative case against Trump than an affirmative one on her behalf.

Donald Trump instead focused on a single goal: emphasizing the challenges facing the nation and arguing that the election of Hillary Clinton would not address those challenges.  Again and again, he tried to tie Secretary Clinton to the status quo.  He attempted to use Clinton's experience against her by casting her as more of the same.  At least early in the debate, he also tried to present a more restrained persona.  His attack on her over TPP also emphasized a favorite Trump theme (trade) and underlined divides in the Democratic coalition.

A few questions: Will this debate move the needle at all?  What effects will it have on woman voters and voters with college degrees?  Did Trump seem like a plausible alternative to Clinton in a "change" cycle?

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