Debate Is Trump's Big Opportunity

On Monday, the most crucial political event between now and Election Day — the first presidential debate — will be only a week away.

The first clash between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to shatter ratings records. Some experts are suggesting that 100 million people could watch the encounter, which will take place at Hofstra University, just outside New York City. Debates usually attract between 60 and 70 million viewers. 

For Trump, the issue is more about trying to persuade viewers that he is an acceptable choice as president. Emerging from the encounter unscathed would “be a victory, a massive victory,” according to GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He doesn’t necessarily have to be better than Hillary, he just has to be plausible as a commander-in-chief.”

O’Connell’s analysis points to something on which experts of all political persuasions agree: Expectations will be lower for Trump than they are for Clinton. 

Trump has frequently been a subject of media derision with his bombastic performances, but O’Connell noted that the importance of that criticism could be exaggerated. 

“It’s about communicating with the audience,” he said. “Sometimes he may say some things that sound jarring to reporters and policy wonks, and to the audience they may not. That’s one of the things that is important in judging debates — you have to keep an eye on the audience.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy