We should always take the noise emanating from the two Presidential campaigns before a debate with a pinch of salt.
They usually tell us more about what the campaigns want the other to think, rather than what their actual strategy is.
All the talk from the Trump campaign has been that he is not preparing and that his staff are concerned that he’ll do something wacky and un-Presidential on stage.
Therefore, we should expect a very subdued Trump to turn up. His answers won’t be detailed, and he has an almost magnetic aversion to facts, but he’ll try to act the Commander-in-Chief.
The Clinton camp has suggested that they will attempt to goad Trump into making a fool of himself. For the same reason, unless a golden opportunity does present itself, I think that’s unlikely to happen.
As George Bernard Shaw said: “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”
The Clinton team know that if it becomes a slanging match, that’s all the media will play afterwards, and Trump will once again get a pass on his rudimentary grasp of the facts.
He will get all the attention, as well as kudos for ‘telling it like it is’ even if he’s spouting complete gibberish.
Let Trump try to act substantial and Presidential. Because if it’s about looking substantial and presidential, Hillary will win that competition.
She’s already president material. The polls agree on that. What she isn’t, the electorate feel, is particularly likeable.
That’s what she needs to work on in this debate. The Trump campaign will attempt to spin her performance as robotic. She needs to endear herself to the audience.
The truth is that other than that, Clinton can afford a boring, event-free debate. She is, at the moment, ahead in the polls by a whisker.
As the election day approaches, third party candidate supporters will start to return to the two main parties. Again, according to the polls, most of them favor Clinton in a head to head with Trump.
For all the hype, Presidential debates don’t tend to influence the polls that much. Around this time in the cycle, whoever is narrowly ahead tends to stay ahead until election day.
If Clinton can avoid a catastrophe tonight, she will have taken another big step towards the Presidency.