HOW THE PRESIDENT CAN SEAL THE DEAL WITH VOTERS TONIGHT
The so-called mainstream polls of the swing states show the race narrowing. If the trend continues at the current rate, President Trump could poll even next week—in addition to the “other” polls that show him near there already.
So Trump’s mission at the final debate tonight is to continue to accelerate his momentum, not to take risks to melt down Joe Biden with verbal fireworks.
Here are my respectful suggestions on how he can “seal the deal” with the tens of millions of voters who will be watching the final debate tonight.
Trump’s rallies are back. He miraculously beat COVID-19 in near record time. Judge Amy Coney Barret proved stellar. If most voters poll they are better off than four years ago, and they think Trump will win, it’s increasingly difficult to believe the disconnect that they are intent on voting against someone who will win and would likely continue to make things better for them.
No one has quite figured out how to calibrate the data on early voting, the Republican surge in swing state registrations, and the effect of the nation’s biggest campuses, mostly in the swing states, being either closed down or at least not fully open on Election Day.
Biden is inert. He’s running a virtual campaign of fear: fear of the virus, fear of questions about Hunter Biden, fear of his suspected intention to pack the court or stop fracking— fear of most anything.
Trump took risks along with 100 million Americans who feed, fuel and make things for Americans: you can no more run a campaign from your basement than you could a presidency—or country.
The latest new debate rules—that silence a candidate’s microphone to ensure his rival can offer two minutes of opening remarks without interruption, at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate—could ironically prove to Trump’s advantage.
Often when Biden speaks for longer than 90 seconds without interruption he tends either to say the most astounding things—or nothing much at all.
Interrupting Biden to correct the record can mimic the style of his obsequious media interviewers—who so often offer him pause-time to regroup, or to reply in sound bites, or to be rescued from struggling with his own half-thoughts on grounds that he was “interrupted,” rather than allowed to sputter along with “you know, you know the thing.”
In any debate, when one candidate has a more imposing physical presence and a greater ability to discuss issues, it makes little sense to interrupt and thereby lend sympathy to the flailing and the frail.
The nonstop advice that Trump is receiving, often from the very swing voters he needs to win over, is sound—be aggressive in pressing Biden for answers without being interruptive or rude; smile and relax; don’t grimace, eye roll or scowl.
Trump knows what he must do because he did it well enough in the town hall, and saw Vice President Pence do it effectively against Kamala Harris—firmly demonstrate to the American people that Biden cannot honestly answer questions because to do so for him would either offend the Left or the majority of the American people.
On substance Trump need not recount all the litanies of injury suffered at the hands of the media/progressive party fusion. He has done so and earned our empathy. But that was then, and this is now—and now is the very future of the country.
From his frenetic pace on the campaign trail, Trump has mastered four-five minutes of reviewing his record. And it is one he can run on and win:
Expanding the economy, stopping most illegal immigration, empowering minorities economically in historic fashion, making superb judicial appointments, recalibrating U.S. foreign policy on Iran and the Middle East, confronting China, restoring the industrial heartland, and ending optional overseas interventions while increasing the military budget.
And he can recount all this with “we” rather than “I” as he so often does on the campaign trail.
Biden of course will accuse Trump of being Typhoid Mary who murdered tens of thousands with the “worst” record on COVID-19 “in the world”.
Trump needs a concise refutation ready that the U.S. record on the pandemic is comparable with most major European countries and better than some. The U.S. leads the world in finding effective drug protocols and vaccinations that will eventually conquer the virus.
No one believes data from China, India or Russia. His argument that seven months of lockdowns now are doing more cumulative damage to the health and lives of Americans than the virus is increasingly undeniable.
Trump should expect the moderator to be biased. But so what? They all have been and most likely will always be.
Trump should now be ready for—and the American people are already bored by—the gotcha questions and the ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ monotonies.
He need not get mad, but get even by rising above both. So when he debates both Biden and the moderator, he can laugh at their desperation in the Reagan fashion of “there you go again”.
On the scandals he need not go into the weeds of Mueller, China, Burisma, and the labyrinth of Clinton-Obama-Biden corruption. Most don’t want to hear the details.
Instead, he should just press Biden simply for yes or no answers:
“Joe, what is true—what you’ve denied for years about your son’s activities or what your son says you did on his emails?”
“And are you for or against, yes or no about fracking, the Green New Deal, reparations, the wall, the tax cuts, Court packing, ending the Electoral College, ending the Senate filibuster, and admitting two more states?”
And when Biden won’t answer yes or no—Trump can simply smile and say to the American people, “There you have it, he doesn’t think you ‘deserve’ an answer and Joe can’t give one even if he wanted—his leftist masters won’t let him.”
Trump can frame his own exasperation with the Left’s assault on our institutions in a bipartisan appeal:
“Whatever your politics, join me in restoring our institutions. Americans, left or right, Republican or Democrat, cannot remain free if our traditional and social media are not independent and fair.
None of us will have a future if our elite collude with China to further its interests over ours.
Without the police, none of us are safe, in the inner city or the suburbs.
And we all want Washington officials to serve Americans, not waste our precious resources trying to destroy them.
Don’t help Joe Biden make America into something it never was and must never be.”
Tonight could be the clincher that saves America, Mr. President. Please make it so.
Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, author, classics professor emeritus, and scholar of ancient warfare. He is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.