Aside from the party conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, the most anticipated series of events will undoubtedly be the presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is going to set historic records of viewership for the networks lucky enough to host one of them. Actually, a bidding war should have been devised between the networks with the proceeds going to a mutually agreeable charity.
The debates will be “huuuge” and represent a flashpoint in the direction of the country. They will be even bigger than the heavyweight contests between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier in the early 1970’s. Such fanfare will be as a result of Mr. Trump’s ability to promote such events, as demonstrated by the high ratings of the GOP debates. Due to the sharp ideological differences between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the nation will watch in greater numbers than any previous presidential debate.
Consider this, Super Bowl 50, held earlier this year, had a worldwide audience of 162.9 million viewers, garnering a 46% viewership. Frankly, the first Clinton/Trump debate will likely surpass this number. Yes, it is that big.
As a “Type A” businessman, Mr. Trump will be brash, boisterous, confident and entertaining. He will undoubtedly take the offense in the debate. Mrs. Clinton will try to depict him as a naive, uninformed clown with no practical experience in government. She may even poke fun at him for some of his positions.
In contrast, Mrs. Clinton will try to portray herself as super confident and experienced. She will maintain her sense of entitlement because of her background. This will be the same mistake she made against Obama and Sanders, and therein lies a weakness. She must earn the public’s vote and not take it for granted simply because she is a Clinton. Mr. Trump will attack her list of limited accomplishments, and portray her as an integral part of the Washington Triad (politicians, the press, and lobbyists). Trump’s goal is to depict her as a part of the establishment, which is considered broken by the general public. Consequently, she will be forced to play defense.
Mrs. Clinton will likely accuse Trump of being a hypocrite, violating business ethics and not treating women fairly, and by doing so she will unwittingly open Pandora’s Box which will be the green light for Trump to attack the past indiscretions of the Clintons.
She desperately needs to maintain her composure and will try to appear above it all. When Trump speaks, she will likely wear the same bored expression she wore in the Benghazi congressional hearings. This will work against her.
If Trump attacks her like his GOP rivals, she’ll say “You see, this is how he treats women.” To which Trump will in turn claim, “You see, she hides behind her skirt. How will she handle someone like Putin?” We saw the wrath in Carly Fiorina’s eyes after allowing Trump to get under her skin. If Hillary does likewise and cracks under the strain, she may go into one of her legendary tirades, thereby losing the debate. I call this the “Captain Queeg phenomenon” from the movie, “The Caine Mutiny.” Like Queeg, who was played by Humphrey Bogart, Mrs. Clinton may become unglued under pressure from Trump.
For his part, Mr. Trump will ask the hard questions the press and Senator Sanders did not, unlike what Romney did with Obama. The kid gloves will be off. If a debate moderator asks, “Why do you believe Mrs. Clinton belongs in jail?” Trump will be unafraid to reopen Benghazi and the e-mail server.
More than this, Trump will hammer away on her lack of political accomplishments. If he can get the American public to believe she cannot stand on her own two feet, without relying on the support of her husband, she will appear to be unfit to serve the office, and the game will be over.
Back in 1971, Ali was the overwhelming favorite to win the match, which is why everyone was shocked when Frazier won by unanimous decision. Likewise, in the 2016 debates, Mrs. Clinton comes into the contest as the odds-on favorite, but do not count Trump out, as he will likely pull a Frazier-like upset.
Keep the Faith!