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Sunday, October 09, 2016

If Trump goes rogue

by digby

This piece on Vox by Andre Prokop looks at the Bill Clinton line of attack that seems inevitable tonight:
First, there’s the simple truth that this line of attack doesn’t poll well. A little over a week ago, Politico asked voters whether it would be appropriate or inappropriate for Trump to bring up Bill Clinton’s affairs and “allegations that Hillary Clinton tried to silence women who accused her husband of infidelity or sexual misconduct,” only 33 percent said this would be appropriate, and 56 percent said it would be inappropriate.

Second, it is really difficult to strike a balance between appearing contrite and going on the attack as Trump appears to want to do. The story since Friday has been about Donald Trump’s conduct. So if he tries to change the subject, it will be interpreted as him trying to change the subject. His video apology statement was hammered for just this reason — the apology just seems less sincere when you throw in “Bill Clinton is worse.” Either the apology or the attack is going to come off as weak.

Third, there’s the question of just what Hillary Clinton will say in response — she’s deliberately said nothing about the leaked tape so far. That’s because, according to a report by Politico’s Annie Karni, her team wants to maximize the impact of her first response by having it take place live on the debate stage, in front of an audience of tens of millions of people.

Fourth, the leaked Trump tape is already out there, voters are widely aware of it, and what it portrays is indisputable. So Hillary Clinton can afford to use a lighter and more subtle touch in discussing it, if she feels that’s the best option. But if Trump truly wants to portray Hillary Clinton as “an enabler of sexual violence,” he is going to have to be the one to do it — all those ugly and disputed allegations are going to have to come out of Donald Trump’s mouth onstage.

Fifth, the optics of Trump aggressively confronting Clinton might be quite bad. Her best moments in past political debates have often come when arrogant male opponents have aggressively overplayed their hands, and Trump has already been hammered for interrupting her too many times in the first debate.

Sixth, there’s the fact that this debate takes place in a town hall setting. The room will be full of undecided voters who will ask pre-selected questions, and most will likely focus on more traditional policy issues. How does Trump press a sexual misconduct-focused case against Bill and Hillary Clinton in an environment when the questioners will likely want to talk about other things? It’s much easier to ignore the question and completely change the subject when it’s a moderator talking rather than a flesh-and-blood voter.

And finally, Trump’s mental state does not seem to be the greatest at this moment. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman writes that he is “increasingly isolated and upset.” And he couldn’t manage to seriously commit himself to debate prep even before his campaign entered this recent tailspin, after all.

Any of these challenges would be tremendously difficult to overcome even for a polished political veteran running a stable, professional campaign — let alone for Trump, whose campaign is in crisis.

I sense that the media is yearning to re-litigate the hundred million dollar Starr investigation in these last few weeks. (Yes, Starr investigated the Broadrick charges.) They hate being accused of bias against Trump and while most of them probably don't want him elected they also don't want Clinton to win by more than the narrowest of margins so they can morally preen about their own "pox on both their houses" superiority.

I don't know if Trump will be smart enough to lead them where they want to go. Let's hope not.