Bait and Wait: How Hillary Trapped a Strategy-Free Trump

September 28, 2016

From my reading of the left-leaning New York Times to my perch at the right-leaning Peter’s Carry-Out, most agree that Hillary Clinton bested Donald Trump in the first presidential debate. I’d predicted last week that the funniest candidate would win and, sure enough, my trusty laugh-o-meter scored Hillary a three-to-zero victor.hillary-trum-bait-pass-composite

But shoulder shimmies aren’t why Hillary won. It was a serious match of wits and strategy, and it was a debate defined by two of 24 influence plays on The Standard Table of Influence, the bait and pause, each expertly employed by a far better prepared Clinton.

TAKING THE BAIT  As though in a bull fight, Clinton was first to hold out her rhetorical cape: A nation that’s five percent of the world should trade with the other 95 (i.e., You can’t hide). Donald’s economic policies are trumped-up (i.e., You’re a Reagan has-been). And a $14 million loan from daddy kick-started his career (i.e., You’re more lucky than smart). 

As the matador intended, Trump charged, gamely countering that American jobs, not international agreements, are what gives our nation strength. But he had no rebuttal to the trickle-down analogy, and he faltered on the implication of his father’s largesse, calling the loan “very small.” As illustrated by Standard Guidance for the bait (below), he’d have been better off to ignore Hillary’s teases and set his own agenda.slide4

The pattern continued throughout the debate as Clinton finished with a practiced doozie: That Trump had mocked the imperfect weight gain of his perfectly crowned Miss Universe, Alisha Machado.

Through ignorance, arrogance, or both, Trump confirmed what Team Hillary has come to understand — that the best way to beat the real estate mogul is to taunt him, personally and directly. Trump should have known it was coming but his poor preparation and lack of relevant experience shown through.

RISKING THE WAIT  In fact, Trump’s instincts — to lunge, to attack — were the precise opposite of Clinton’s restraint — what amounts to the testing play we call the pause. Whereas Truculent Trump interrupted his opponent three times more often, Careful Clinton was determined to wait and watch. Shown below are standard risks she assumed in running this subtle testing play:slide3

Clinton’s two-play strategy was a gamble. In baiting her opponent, she could have been subjected to a litany of counter claims (e.g., Benghazi, her wealth, her health, her husband, his infidelities, pay-for-play, and of course more email jabs). And by pausing, she might have ceded the stage to a stage-thirsty rival. But Trump was not ready to fill a 90-minute void. He had only a few minutes of memorized lines from so many stump speeches. And this time, he was being transplanted from ravenous pro-Trump rallies to a two-player setting that required substance and logical arguments.

He couldn’t bring the crowds. He couldn’t ignore his opponent or the moderator. He couldn’t incite Hillary to outbursts. He didn’t have the content to control or counter the debate. And he didn’t have a game plan.

Study up, Donald. You’re being out played.


Post by Alan Kelly

Graphics courtesy of Playmaker Systems, LLC