Reprinted from Counterpunch
Conventional wisdom says Donald Trump is going to lose, and lose big.
You see it everywhere in corporate media. Republican Party insiders are bereft and in denial, simultaneously refusing to accept the reality that their party is facing the possibility of catastrophic defeats in races all over the country this fall; indeed, some pundits say Trump marks the beginning of the end of the GOP. The New York Times is running a 24-7 odds placement that puts Hillary Clinton's chances of victory at 86% against his 14%.
Indeed, if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would beat Trump by a sizable margin. But that's not the case. Two months is a long time. Old scandals percolate; new ones emerge. Another terrorist attack could prompt voters to turn to the right.
By far the biggest potential game changer, however, are the presidential debates. Conventional wisdom says Hillary Clinton will use her superior command of the facts and her ability to namedrop world leaders to run circles around Trump. But conventional wisdom is often wrong -- just ask unstoppable 2016 Republican presidential nominee Jeb Bush.
I think Donald will trounce Hillary in the debates.
In fact, I can't imagine any scenario in which she doesn't get destroyed.
We like to think that the presidential debates are about issues and facts. They aren't. The winner is the candidate who unleashes the zingiest one-liners and putdowns.
"Where's the beef?"
"I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
You've watched Donald Trump. You've watched Hillary Clinton. Who do you think is better positioned to control the format?
I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton can be quick on her feet or sharp with a nasty one-liner. It doesn't matter. Her brand is experience and competence. She can't get down into the gutter with Trump without undermining her message that she's the adult. She has to look serious and come across as -- there's no other word for it -- boring. Remember what happened to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush when they tried to out-Trump Trump: they wrecked whatever chances they still had to stop him during the primaries.
A more courtly candidate (Bernie Sanders) might have gone easy on Clinton for fear of being viewed as sexist. That concern won't cross Trump's mind. He'll go after her with the ferocity of Black Friday shoppers chasing down a discount Xbox.
Does Trump have vulnerabilities? Obviously. Hillary's aces in the hole are the temperament argument and his refusal to release his taxes. The secrecy surrounding his tax returns raises suspicions that risk unraveling the fundamental rationale of his candidacy: I'm rich and successful, and I can use the talents I used to get that way to benefit the country. But her vulnerabilities are more serious.