Hillary is Blowing It

How She Can Recover

I see panic in her supporters. Here in Silicon Valley, they are predominate. The worry is palpable. Yesterday 538 had her odds of winning at 52%, uncomfortable close to Trump at 48%, and way down from her post-convention peak at 96%, a virtual lock. What she is doing is not working. Can she recover?

Let’s diagnose the problem: she is using tired, old tropes. It’s as if she is still in the ’90s. Or, the ’80s: the attacks on Trump are eerily similar to those on Reagan, 36 years ago. He was a cowboy, he‘s a dunce, he’d blow the world up, he was anti-immigrant, he was sexist misogynist etc. The same old same old from the Democrats ever since. A focus group of ad effectiveness by Republican strategist Frank Luntz on Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, concluded that the same old ads ain’t working. It is not that they like Trump any better, they don’t; it is that her playbook is inauthentic. Her ads did not cause the focus group to twist their dials much at all; only the authentic ads moved the dial, such as a question from a vet to her, premised that he had been in naval intelligence and would have gone to jail for her breaches as Secy of State.

With nothing working, her campaign has fallen to name calling.

Many are hoping the debates will save her. They are wishing for Trump to make an unforced error. But we have learned since the Kennedy-Nixon debates that on television, the visual impact trumps the reasoned discourse. The winner can be determined by turning off the sound and watching the body language. Where image trumps words, Trump can appear dominate even if he is clownishly unprepared for policy. You can peruse the prior link to see how Hillary might thread a needle and win the debates; but it is a complex path, and Trump is unpredictable.

I would recommend she hit him where he is most vulnerable: on foreign policy. It is a dangerous world out there, a multi-polar world that is splitting at multiple seams. Diplomacy is a world of nuance, tying together threads of discussion that go back years. Trump is The Art of the Deal, asking for too much and walking back to a deal. In foreign affairs, countries have long memories and bluster can be misinterpreted with disastrous consequences.

I wouldn’t hit him as hard on domestic matters. She would end up defending the worst recovery in modern history, and he has Paul Ryan to make things right. Hillary supporters may not like Ryan’s policies, but the undecided who worry about Trump’s bluster and voodoo policies can take some comfort that they will be adjusted by Congress to more sensible programs. Trump has no Ryan to soften his foreign policy pronouncements.

She may feel she too is vulnerable on foreign policy, with the Russian Reset and the Libyan fiasco, but Trump will hit her hard on those matters anyway.

I don’t expect these recommendations to ever wend their way to her campaign, or influence her in any event, but I have been pressed by friends of mine who support her and need something to cling to for hope and a change in her momentum. Maybe they can sell it to her campaign before it is too late.

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