They're saying that the bar has been set exceptionally low for Donald Trump heading into Monday night's big presidential debate. And Hillary's crybabies have been whining about this all weekend.
But, if expectations for Trump are exceptionally low, Hillary Clinton has no one to blame but herself.
After all, she's spent millions of dollars on ads depicting Trump as a rude, crude, irrational, demonic, bumbling idiot.
So now, one could argue that all Trump has to do is show up for the debate and act reasonably normal and somewhat sensible.
But, don't buy that. Because the media (98 percent of whom are Hillary allies) will be ready to jump with full force on any Trump misstep, no matter how small or insignificant.
So, Trump won't just be debating Hillary, he'll be debating a whole galaxy of self-appointed experts who control not just the media but also academia, big labor, much of corporate America, the arts and the popular culture -- in other words, the whole Effing Establishment.
So, when Trump says he's an outsider, he's speaking the truth.
But in 2016 that's also his greatest strength.
And that's what Trump must lead with.
So, here are five things that Trump can do to decisively win the debate:
1) Speak from the heart. Give voice to the ordinary people who pay the bills, pay the taxes, raise our families and have actually seen their net income go down over the past eight years. These are the people who are not only worried about their own decline on the national stage but America's demise on the world stage as well. And these two must and can be linked. What's more, they're also worried about their own personal safety. And no one can address these issues like Trump.
2) Stay on offense without being offensive. Now, this is going to be a tough one for Trump. For one thing, people actually expect him to be bellicose. If he's not, he may seem inauthentic and that's the worst thing he could do because his "realness" is what actually most clearly differentiates him from the hopelessly artificial Hillary. So, let's amend this and say "stay on offense without being too offensive or overly offensive." We think that's eminently doable. We think Trump can handle that.
3) Don't be provoked. Don't be goaded by Hillary. Answer directly and strongly but don't feel a need to respond to every slight or perceived slight (either by her or the moderator) in kind. Instead, turn the moment into something more meaningful, more positive and . . .
4) Present a real vision for the future. What George H. W. Bush called "the vision thing" really is important in these debate and Trump has gotten better at this as the campaign has progressed. In formal speeches, at campaign rallies and even in his TV ads Trump is effectively contrasting himself with the past (the Obamas and Clintons) and presenting a powerful, inviting, sunny image of the America that could be. In the public relations business we understand that nothing engages an audience quite like painting a visual picture -- a picture that forces us to imagine better times for all and to aspire to such a goal.
5) Make news, in a good way. This might be a good time to unveil a new proposal, reveal an unexpected endorsement or maybe even announce a cabinet pick or two. That'll not only surprise people and capture attention but it may even throw Hillary off.
Finally, we would urge Trump to channel Reagan, just a little.
Would it be too much to ask Trump to poke a bit of lighthearted fun at himself for a change or show a softer side? Think about it.
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