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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At New York Magazine Ed Kilgore writes that “since Trump’s grand objective was surviving this debate, he did win. He’s not going to be forced to cough up the Republican presidential nomination just under a month before the election. That has to be the lowest debate threshold any presidential candidate has ever faced.” However, that may well prove to be a strategic winner for Clinton. As Kilgore adds, “What Democrats may realistically hope is that, by remaining on the ticket, Trump has now put a Democratic House as well as a Senate back on the table. Since a Democratic Congress may be the only thing that could enable a President Hillary Clinton to achieve much as president, that’s a very big deal.”

At The Daily 202, James Hohman explains why “More than Trump, the Republican Party was the biggest loser in last night’s debate,” noting “Trump’s collapse has already ruined many political careers, and it will probably ruin more… The ambitious Republicans who submitted and capitulated to Trump after he personally insulted them and their families continue to be personally humiliated…“Everything Trump touches dies,” said Republican consultant Rick Wilson, who is advising independent candidate Evan McMullin…“The Republican Party will look like Berlin circa 1945,” added GOP operative Steve Schmidt…Schmidt, one of John McCain’s top advisers in 2008, said this weekend’s donnybrook “has exposed the intellectual rot in the Republican Party.” “This candidacy – the magnitude of its disgrace to the country is almost impossible to articulate,” he said during an appearance on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “It has exposed, at a massive level, the hypocrisy, the modern-day money changers in the temple like Jerry Falwell Jr. … What we have seen – and the danger for all of the candidates – is that over the course of the last year these candidates have repeatedly put their party ahead of their country.”

The low bar Trump set in the St. Louis debate has hustled some commentators to declare Trump the winner of last night’s debate. But Amy Davidson isn’t having any of it in her New Yorker article, “Trump Shows His Inner Dictator,” she writes: “Clinton won this debate; she was consistently more informed, she fought calmly and effectively under enormous pressure, and she spoke to American ideals…Trump did nothing to dispel any of the concerns about him—not about his temperament, or his commitment to civil liberties, or his tax returns, or his fundamental bigotry. His discussion of Syria was incoherent: he wrote off Aleppo, the besieged city, and started complaining about the planned campaign in Mosul, which is in Iraq…The only worries he may have addressed are those of the faction of his party that worries that he will not do everything possible to win, including to go as low and dirty as he can. In that capacity, Trump may have done enough in St. Louis to hang on.”

A CNN/ORC poll of debate-watchers found that 57 percent of respondents believed Clinton won, while only 37 percent said Trump was the victor. But it was a small sample (537 RVs) and Republicans may have been undersampled (27 percent self-described).

From Jonathan Easley’s “Five takeaways from second presidential debate” at The Hill: “The reaction to the second debate was mixed, with pundits cast into despair over the ugliness and declaring that both candidates had scored points and absorbed damaging blows…”An instant poll from CNN/YouGov found 47 percent viewed Clinton as the winner, with 42 percent saying Trump had won it…A draw is a win for Clinton, who leads in nearly every battleground state and is the overwhelming favorite among election handicappers to be the next president…Trump entered the night in free fall. He may have stopped the bleeding, but he didn’t alter the dynamics of the race, which are very much against him.”

Greg Sargent writes at The Plum Line that “Trump’s real debate goal was to publicly humiliate Clinton. He failed miserably.” As Sargent writes, “Trump had two choices: he could focus his second debate performance largely on showing contrition and trying to reassure voters alienated by his character and temperament, in order to slow or reverse his slide. Or he could try to wrestle Hillary Clinton down into the mud with him and hope for the best. He mostly chose the latter. Virtually everything Trump said and did appeared geared towards that one goal. And, while Clinton’s performance had its flaws, Trump’s effort was a miserable flop.”

Many political observers are today expressing disgust with Trump’s threat to jail his opponent as a clear signal that he is capable of unprecedented fascism. E. J. Dionne, Jr. summed up the cumulative effect of Trumps comments, thusly: “It’s not an American habit for a presidential candidate to declare that he would imprison his opponent. Donald Trump, reeling from the release of an 11-year-old video recording his lewd and repulsive comments about women, went there anyway.”

The Washington Post article, “Donald Trump has created an excruciating moment for evangelicals,” by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, focuses on another of the GOP nominee’s base constituencies which is having buyer’s remorse about their support of his candidacy.

To those who are contemplating split-ticket voting next month, NYT columnist Paul Krugman has a sage observation that ought to be taken into consideration: “Assuming that Mr. Trump loses, many Republicans will try to pretend that he was a complete outlier, unrepresentative of the party. But he isn’t. He won the nomination fair and square, chosen by voters who had a pretty good idea of who he was. He had solid establishment support until very late in the game. And his vices are, dare we say, very much in line with his party’s recent tradition..Mr. Trump, in other words, isn’t so much an anomaly as he is a pure distillation of his party’s modern essence.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Al on

    Saying Donald Trump won because he met his objective is a little like saying a runner met his objective by running a personal best, even though he lost the race. No, the winner is the one who had the strongest performance in the competition. Who performed stronger in this debate? That’s who the winner is. Not any other criteria.


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