Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trump's Attack Tactic: What Have I Got to Lose?

A few weeks ago Donald Trump’s closing argument in his appeal to Afro-Americans for their vote was, “What have you got to lose?” After years of not achieving a better life under Democratic presidents, he reasoned, blacks should switch allegiance and vote Republican. “What have you got to lose?” 

Apparently Trump is intent on taking his own counsel when it comes to confronting his latest setback, the release Friday of an inflammatory, sexist, degrading 2005 tape of his comments and behavior toward women. Already lagging in their support, particularly from suburban housewives in key battleground states, Trump seems poised to blast away at Hillary and Bill Clinton for the former president’s infidelities and his wife’s aggressive defense of him and attack on his accusers, some of whom, in the end, proved to be aggrieved parties. 

Trump is casting Hillary as a bully who attacked, shamed and intimidated her husband’s “victims.” He might well level those charges against her during their debate Sunday night.

It’s a risky tactic, given his low ratings among female voters. But Trump might reason he has nothing to lose by sharpening his assault on the moral code of the Clintons at a time when his own compass has been tossed topsy-turvy beyond what he has already said during his campaign about Megyn Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz’s wife, Gold Star mother Ghazala Khan and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. 

Trump might further reason that his Republican base doesn’t want him to retreat. A poll released by Politico Sunday morning found “just 12 percent of Republicans — and 13 percent of female Republicans — agree. 

“As of now, GOP voters largely want the party to stand behind Trump. Nearly three-quarters of Republican voters, 74 percent, surveyed on Saturday said party officials should continue to support Trump. Only 13 percent think the party shouldn’t back him.”

It’s not uncommon for viewership of presidential debates to drop off after the first one (the initial debate was the most-watched in history—some 84 million tuned in). Given the exposure of Trump’s powderkeg tape, which obscured the release by WikiLeaks Friday of troubling Clinton emails, the audience for the second debate could equal, if not top, the first.  

They’ll be tuning in to see how far Trump will go over the line of decency and, equally intriguing, how Clinton will respond. It makes for “must-see TV,” but not on NBC (which originated that phrase back in the 1990s) because the peacock network will be televising the football game between the New York Giants and host Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin, one of the battleground states. For the sake of most marriages, not just among fans of both teams, I hope households have more than one TV or will do as I do—DVR the football game for later viewing. 

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