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Finneran: Clinton V. Trump, A Debate Preview

Friday, September 23, 2016


I’m one of those guys who loves the “coming attractions” segment of a night at the movies. Notwithstanding the very loud and predictably crappy junk that Hollywood now produces, there’s usually at least one teaser where you turn to your spouse and say something like “hey, that might be worthwhile”.

So, in that spirit and with that hope of finding something worthwhile, I offer you a few thoughts regarding Monday night’s debate.

Observation number 1:

Hillary has the harder task on debate night. Despite Trump’s ample negative baggage she carries a heavier burden. Twenty five plus years in the public arena, making speeches, taking positions and casting votes, gives Trump numerous targets to shoot at. Call it target practice, with hundreds of targets all over the place.

Observation number 2:

Female candidates are judged more harshly than male candidates. Their voices. Their clothes. Their hair. Yes, as strange as it might seem the man with the orange hair has an advantage. His hair is part of his shtick. If her hair is even slightly mussed by the end of the night it will register in the minds of the viewers.

Observation number 3:

Trump has a low bar to clear. He has been his own worst enemy throughout the course of his campaign. If he can merely control himself, be courteous, be respectful, and be gracious he gains ground. Imagine him opening up the debate with a sincerely offered hope and prayer that Hillary regains her full health and energy, noting that America desperately needs strong and robust leadership. He could note that they have many differences of policy and opinion but that no true American wishes her ill.

Observation number 4:

Trump is totally unpredictable. We are told that this is a “change election”, that the voters are angry and that they are fed up with the political correctness of the establishment “elites”. If true, that gives Trump room to roam over the battlefield, picking fights and using Hillary’s establishment credentials against her. Call it weaponizing the wishful thinking of Washington D.C. Trump’s sheer unpredictability makes it harder for Hillary to anticipate and prepare for his lines of attack.

Observation number 5:

The moderator will get run over a few times. Neither of these candidates has a shy bone in their bodies. Yellow lights, red lights, and moderator warnings will be ignored. The candidates know two things above all else---1) most of America is watching and 2) their opportunity to impress voters is very limited. Each of them will burst through warnings in an effort to maximize their connection to viewers and voters.

Observation number 6:

Recent terrorist attacks help Trump. Hillary is constrained by President Obama’s faculty lounge faux sophistication. In the battle between “nuance” and simplicity, simplicity wins. Americans are fed up with explanations and excuses, with accusations of Islamophobia, and with lectures about the frequency of fatal bathroom accidents. An accident is just that—an accident, nothing more. Bombings, shootings, and stabbings are not accidents. They are premeditated terrorist acts and Americans know the difference.  

Observation number 7:

Hillary will be very well prepared. She knows the policy grounds of various issues and she understands the pressure of the stage. She will play both offense and defense. She will handle the moment. As for Trump he remains the wildest of wild cards. He could hit a homerun or he could knock himself out of the race. Can he be a calm but forceful and reassuring voice? Nobody knows.............

All in all, there will be drama and suspense, missed opportunities and head-shaking moments. Great theater in the comfort of our living rooms, coming this Monday night. Call it history in the making.

Don’t forget the popcorn.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


Trump Rally in Warwick Rhode Island, April, 2016

Photography by Richard McCaffrey

Rep. Joe Trillo

John DePetro

Veteran Endorses Trump

Trump Gets Started

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Capacity Crowd

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Pushes on Trade

Building a Wall

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Talks about RI


Big Excitement

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Supporters Outside

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Event Over


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