POLITICS

How To Win The GOP Primary Debate

Or at least, how not to lose it.

Donald Trump and nine other people will take the stage in Cleveland on Thursday night for the first of at least nine Republican presidential debates. Earlier in the day, several lesser-known candidates will go at it on an undercard that’s been set up to contend with the fact that 17 people think that they should be the GOP nominee.

We at 2016 FIRST TO LAST are charitable souls, and we want to help them all, if for no other reason than that covering such a large, chaotic field is so much fun. One obvious priority for the debaters is to be ready for the Godzilla of Glitz to stomp on you with his gigantic Gucci loafers. (Although Trump said in a tweet that he’ll be playing nice.)

You need to have a calm, classy and substantive comeback. You also need to remember that the FOX moderators are (maybe!) out to get Trump, whom their boss of bosses, Rupert Murdoch, can’t stand. So that means: Get out of the way. And of course: Always lower expectations -- to zero if possible -- since this whole thing is such a circus.

But beyond that, what should you, the candidate, do? Sadly, no rich megadonor is paying us, but here is our premium (free) advice. 

RANK TIPS
1
LIMIT YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH DONALD TRUMP
The more you say his name, the more he gets to speak. If you’re going to pick a fight, do it with someone else.
2
WHAT IS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
Say something distinctive. Define yourself succinctly, and do it now, because your opponents are waiting to do it for you.
3
MEMES WILL HAPPEN
Your words will be chopped, diced and dissected on the groupthink that is journalistic Twitter. Make peace with this.
4
REMEMBER, DONORS ARE WATCHING
Your campaign's funding is on the line. Pretend you're talking to a billionaire, because you are. (Don’t “imagine them naked,” though.)
5
BE 'PRESIDENTIAL'
These days, that means being the guy folks want to get a beer with or sit next to in coach.
6
IF THERE IS DEAD AIR, DIVE INTO IT
Especially if you’re a candidate at the fringes. There are 10 people on stage. Make sure they know you are there.
7
ASSUME THE CAMERA IS ALWAYS ON YOU
Even though you're only one of 10. Don't look bored, don't look jealous, don't look confused.
8
SERVE YOUR AUDIENCE
This is not about pleasing Roger Ailes, who would be happy if you set your hair on fire because it would goose the ratings.
9
WIN THE LITTLE KIDS' DEBATE OUTRIGHT
If you don’t get into the “top ten” debate, remember, this is the play-in game. One and done.
10
DON'T GET LOST IN THE WEEDS
Whether that's policy, campaign strategy or anything else. Keep it simple for now. There will be at least eight other debates.
11
DON'T PULL A TIM PAWLENTY
If you've talked a big game offstage, make sure you talk it onstage. That means you, too, Donald Trump.
12
STAY ABOVE THE FRAY
But if you have an opportunity to stay out of the melee, do. Romney did this well.
13
DON'T CONFRONT THE MODERATOR
Attempting media criticism never works (see 2012). (Also: this is Fox, your buddies.)
14
DON'T BE TOO CUTE
Elevator pitch, yes; robotic, focus-grouped slogan, no.
15
IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MENTION RONALD REAGAN
The old standard still pleases. (Do not mention George W. Bush, though, even if you are trying to needle Jeb.)
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