Saturday, September 24, 2016

Debate Hopes and Expectations

I will probably only be writing about the first debate because I will be in Japan for the others.  And, no, I will not sit in front a computer screen and watch videos of them.... ok, maybe I will.

Anyhow, what do I hope for, besides Clinton wiping the floor with Donnie's hair?
  • Despite being a person who studies foreign policy and international relations, I think I would prefer more discussion of domestic policies.  Why?  First, we have actually had a surprising abundance of discussion of foreign policy in the campaigns, crowding out discussions of how to fix social security and medicare, how to rebuild US infrastructure, regulation of banks, education, and on and on.  Second, Trump doesn't know much about things like facts and details, so this would be fun to watch him struggle. Third, and, most importantly, history/political science tells us that people care about/vote on domestic stuff--the things that they think affects them most directly.  
  • Here's where I get idealistic: I'd love it if the media used as a basis of comparison for Trump's performance not the low bar of his regular Trumpiness but the performance by past candidates, losing and winning.  That is, how about considering whether Trump performs better than Gore or Romney or Bush or McCain or Obama?  Does Trump perform as well or as poorly as candidates that were seen as qualified, whether they went on to win or lose the election?
  • Even less realistic, it would be great if the discussion afterwards discussed not just the horse race but the policy stances, fact checking them and analyzing their likely impact/meaning on/for voters.
What do I expect?
  • That Hillary Clinton will "win" the debate by having a greater mastery of the facts, having greater composure, and all the rest.
  • That the media will focus on a few key lines
  • That Trump will probably do better than the expectations his campaign has set, but probably will still fall short of the Dan Quayle standard and probably even the Sarah Palin standard.  
The stuff that I have read that has resonated the most with me (thanks to Michael Cohen [the the says who one but the one who writes for the Boston Globe], the Keeping It 1600 gang): that Trump has a pretty hard ceiling of support, so his performance here really does not matter that much.  That the pool of voters who are "gettable" are those who might vote for Clinton, Johnson, Stein or not at all, so Clinton has to show to them that she can be President, that she is not just a robot or presenting completely canned material.  I think she can do that, but as Obama showed in the first debate in 2012 and I showed at a few job talks, what one can do and what does do in these moments are often two different things.

To be clear, I am still confident that Clinton will win the election because the fundamentals are still fundamental: Trump is a detestable person, has a very poor team and weak organization, far less money, while Clinton is actually better than how she is perceived, has a very smart team and very sharp organization and far better surrogates.  Oh and Pence really doth suck.  One more thing: our October surprise might have come early--the Trump campaign might have worked with the Russians on messing with our election....  So, there's that.


Anonymous said...

This is my prediction, as a few journalists have said: barring last-minute surprises, this will be the only debate of 2016. Trump is at his most vulnerable 1vs1, when the contrasts are glaring. The main takeaway from the NBC foreign policy Q&A earlier this month wasn't the moderator's inability to challenge Trump, but Donnie stepping in it despite himself. That's what the Clinton camp wants - a gaffe so glorious that ensures there is no recovery, à la Rick Lazio, "Oops" or "No Soviet domination in Eastern Europe."

Anonymous said...

More on that 'contrasts are glaring'...