Tonight Matt Lauer will host a forum featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on NBC. It will be the first meeting between the two candidates during this election, to be followed by three debates. The two candidates will not be on stage together but will be appearing back to back.
Let’s look at specialties of each candidate in terms of swaying the American people.
Hillary and Bill Clinton are experts, perhaps the best ever, at day to day handling, feeding and infiltrating the press. Despite substantial negative issues, Hillary is at the top of her game and has led in the polls head to head against Trump.
As an example, take the situation a few weeks ago just after the Democratic Convention. The media were filled with articles about the Republican Party not supporting Trump, threatening to find a new candidate, withdrawing resources, campaign shakeups, etc. Turns out few of these had any real substance, but they were constantly in the news and the impact on the polls was substantial, widening to an 8 point lead. The major investigations into Hillary’s email and the Clinton Foundation, despite many new revelations during that time, were relegated to “back page” status.
This was because Clinton’s press team is so well connected in the media, they were able to provide juicier stories with precise timing, and more urgency. This is a huge talent honed over the last 30 years.
Donald Trump’s campaign can’t match this yet. It could be his new team will be capable enough, but they will at most fight to a draw.
Trump’s specialty is the “big show.”
With the Celebrity Apprentice he had one of the top rate reality shows. With the Republican debates he drew record crowds. His in-person campaign rallys are drawing tens of thousands. This is his team’s talent, both in the ability to attract viewers and in bringing the right content to the right audience.
His recent trip to Mexico demonstrated how he can make grand gestures and pull people to his side. The result was increased polling numbers within a few days, just based on the one event.
The Republican debates had as many as 27 million viewers. A single debate between Hillary and Trump could attract double that amount. And there are four events.
The funny part is Hillary’s camp was accusing Trump of being afraid and backing out of the debates. But if you read the quotes, Trump team is savvy about audience and competition on television, he was negotiating to maximize the audience. This is what he wants because he knows Hillary’s team does not compare in “big show” experience.
Total audience figures could be twice the Superbowl audience, over 200 million viewers over the four events.
If Trump brings his best, or Hillary breaks into a coughing fit, as has been rumored to have occured recently, this race could be over.
On the other hand, remember Hillary has the better press game. If Trump makes a gaff it will hit the media relentlessly for several days straight.
I don’t believe any of the debates will be a tie. Both sides will declare victory, but the American people will feel a victor emerging.