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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Donald Trump solidifies his position as this year’s change candidate

Though I wouldn’t exactly say Wednesday night’s “Commander-in-Chief” forum was consequential in terms of this year’s overall race for either candidate, people are still talking about it nonetheless.

I wrote yesterday that I thought such formats (one-on-one with a moderator and a few questions being thrown in from a town hall-type audience) naturally favor a career politician like Hillary Clinton, but I was surprised to see there were other voices who think a more or less “clean slate” may give Donald Trump an advantage in the Donald Trumpupcoming “real” debates.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes, “One common theme of all the questions: They focused on things Clinton did in her years in office, in the Senate and as secretary of state. She started out by citing her experience, so Lauer and the audience answered, in effect, ‘OK, let's talk about your experience.’

“Trump has no such experience. There's no Trump record in public office, no government decisions that went awry, no votes to back away from, no nothing. When running for public office, even for the presidency, that can be an advantage.”

The potential headaches Trump saves from his lack of government practice he more than makes up for with private sector issues such as lawsuits and bankruptcies. These things don’t define the man but they don’t help, either.

A lack of government experience can also be a serious disadvantage when your opponent can cite statistics and specifics and knowledge of every nook and cranny of an issue like foreign policy while you’re stuck, like Trump, in claiming that he has a detailed plan to defeat ISIS but can’t talk about it now because he wants to preserve the element of surprise.

I’m for Trump, but does anyone really believe him on that one? The best answer would be, “I’ll listen intently to my advisors when I reach the Oval Office and we’ll assess the situation at that time.” But saying such a thing would get Trump in trouble, wouldn’t it?

York then points out that in most of the recent presidential elections involving two non-incumbents, the candidate with less experience in government ended up winning. He’s right, of course, but I’m not sure the American people view lack of experience with reverence as much as they see it as the possibility of bringing a new perspective to problems that have stagnated for years.

In 2008, for example, not only did John McCain have George W. Bush’s Iraq War weighing him down, he also had his long history of fighting for amnesty for illegal immigrants. When pitted against “Hope and Change” Obama there never was any question what sounded more appealing to an American public that doesn’t go very deep on information.

As far as Trump goes this year, his lack of government track record means people can only judge him based on what he says now versus Crooked Hillary who has over two decades’ worth of very public decisions and deeds to explain and defend.

And in her case, she’s got a thick coating of sleaze to wade through as well.

York concludes, “[F]or Democrats hoping Clinton will land a knockout blow in the upcoming debate, Wednesday night was a cautionary moment. It showed that Trump has some serious strengths of his own, and that in what could be the most asymmetrical matchup ever, Clinton's experience might not be the advantage her supporters hope it will be.”

Does that mean all those commercials where Hillary claims her experience and readiness to answer that 3 a.m. phone call could actually work against her?

I guess it depends on the impressions people have of Trump.

As I was watching the forum the other night I couldn’t help but think Trump comes off as a very capable and confident decision maker. He’s not exactly modest, but humble politicians like John McCain and Mitt Romney were so obviously afraid of offending some voting constituency that they didn’t work very hard in targeting Obama’s enormous ethical and experience flaws.

Trump won’t shy away from Hillary’s weaknesses. But he also must guard against being too aggressive or the media will say he’s just beating up on a woman.

Either way, I’m not sure I agree with York that Trump’s lack of experience in government will serve as an advantage. He’ll certainly do better in issue areas other than foreign policy and national defense because that’s where he’ll be able to provide more specifics on where big government has failed (see school choice below).

The first debate (on Sept. 26) will be one heck of a show, for sure.

Is Hillary Clinton’s rotten personality the reason they’re hiding her on the campaign trail?

Hillary Clinton’s demeanor in Wednesday night’s forum was strange from the start as she seemed almost combative and defensive even with liberal Matt Lauer spoon feeding her the questions.

A visibly skeptical audience probably didn’t help her feel any better as everywhere she looked there was someone with “I don’t believe you” and “you detest me” written all over his or her face.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, was rather calm and collected by his standards. Sure, there were the usual declarations of “it was a disaster” when talking about Hillary and Obama’s foreign policy and grudging pride in accepting a compliment from Vladimir Putin, but all in all, Trump looked presidential in his first joint appearance with Crooked Hillary.

Trump held off the outward anger that sometimes manifested itself during the primaries. I wondered at times during his half hour on stage if he was going to “lose it” when Lauer kept giving him quotes from the past and asking whether he still believed them.

One reason Hillary might have looked so obstinate is because she’s out of practice fielding live questions. Her campaign has devolved into avoiding the media completely and even holding scant few rallies.

Victor Davis Hanson writes on the pheomenon at National Review, “The Clinton strategy is to sit on her small lead in the last two months of the race, expecting that the mercurial Donald J. Trump will finally destroy his campaign with another outburst. She apparently assumes that nonstop fundraising, attack ads, and an army of staffers will bury the amateurish Trump campaign.”

In contrast, Hanson says, “Trump’s effort is mostly a loud, public, solo affair. He tries to scrounge free TV and radio exposure. He is at war not just with Clinton but also with the Republican establishment and the so-called elites of both parties.”

Hanson concludes that the election will hinge on whichever candidate’s strategy proves the most effective. As has been the case since Trump announced he was running for president, his face is pretty much everywhere – at least in the media. Hillary stays out of sight as much as possible and looks terrible when she does show up at something like the Commander-in-Chief forum.

Reince Priebus apparently even criticized her for not smiling. Would you smile if you were her?

The more she’s seen the more people are reminded how awful she really is. My daughter is currently taking a psychology class and was quick to point out all of Crooked Hillary’s cues that she was lying on Wednesday night. It wasn’t hard to spot – there were a lot to choose from.

To her credit, Hillary appears to understand that she isn’t likable and says she doesn’t blame people for thinking she’s “cold.”

Hanna Trudo of Politico reports, “Delivering a rare personal message on Thursday afternoon, the Democratic presidential nominee opened up to the popular blog Humans of New York just one day after she delivered remarks about foreign policy and military preparation at a forum on Wednesday night…

“’I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off,’ she wrote.’”

As an example of why she might feel the need to protect herself, Crooked Hillary relayed a story about how she was taking a law school admissions test at Harvard one time and was bullied by boys in the room who didn’t want a woman there -- someone who would potentially take their spot in the school and therefore send them to Vietnam.

What a bunch of misogynistic louts at that Harvard law school! Didn’t they get the groovy memo saying it wasn’t cool to yell at the poor un-liberated girls trying to get into the school?

You can’t make this stuff up, folks…unless you’re Hillary, of course!

I would laugh if someone came forward to corroborate Hillary’s tale, but it just reeks of falsity. The “cold and unemotional” part is wholly believable, however.

Crooked Hillary’s attempt to generate sympathy and understanding for why she’s such a nasty wretch isn’t likely to win many people over. Trump has a bit of an uphill climb in doing so himself, but at least he’s merely been an entertainer all his life and can get away with some off-the-wall behavior.

Here’s thinking Hillary will keep hiding in the lead-up to Election Day. What else would you do if you were her?

(Note: Perhaps because she’s sinking in the polls, Crooked Hillary did give her first formal press conference in over nine months on Thursday, taking a whopping six questions in fifteen minutes (none about her email). Does this mean she’s actually coming out of hiding?)

Ratings show a lot of people watched on Wednesday night, but they were most likely for Trump

With nearly a half year span between the party primary debates last winter and Wednesday night’s NBC presidential forum, it was difficult to tell going in how much interest a one-hour semi-town hall style event would generate from the American public.

It turns out, quite a lot.

Joe Concha of The Hill reports, “NBC’s ‘Commander-in-Chief Forum,’ featuring Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, was a winner for the broadcast network.

“The one-hour event Wednesday night — moderated by Matt Lauer from New York — beat out CBS's ‘Big Brother’ and Fox's ‘MasterChef,’ easily taking first in the overall audience race with 10.77 million viewers, nearly doubling the 5.97 million people who tuned in for ‘Big Brother.’”

As a Big Brother fan myself, I can say that at least some of those people put the episode on the DVR while concentrating on the Trump vs. Crooked Hillary grudge match.

Concha did note that the program wasn’t as big of a winner in the 18 to 49 demographic group, so it’s clear most of the audience was made up of older folks. And statistically speaking, the older you are the more likely you support Donald Trump. It’s a fact, look it up.

The viewership statistics support the notion that conservatives and Republicans are more motivated in this year’s election and are more inclined to not only like their candidate, they’ll watch him, too. It’s no secret that the Republican primary debates drew record setting audiences, due in part to the curiosity factor surrounding Trump’s candidacy and how the billionaire celebrity would react to grilling about his background.

Now that Trump’s done dozens of these types of programs – debates, one-on-one interviews, town hall meetings, etc. – he’s reached a comfort level talking about political issues that he didn’t have when he first started.

The showman has become a statesman. Trump still isn’t nearly as polished as a lot of politicians – I can only imagine how well Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would have done on Wednesday – but there’s something to be said about the appeal of an outsider.

It will be interesting to see the polls in the next week or so to see if Trump’s “new” candidate persona is helping to move the needle even further in his direction.

Trump’s upping the ante on school choice will pay dividends for his campaign

Finally this week, though I can honestly say I’m never thrilled by the announcement of another proposed federal program, Donald Trump took a step on Thursday towards convincing conservatives – and inner city residents – that he’s serious about changing and reducing the federal government’s role in education.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday released a plan to spend big on school choice.

“Trump’s first budget would use $20 billion to create a block grant for every impoverished school-aged child in the country, according to a fact sheet released by his campaign.

“That way, federal dollars could follow students to whatever school parents enroll them in — public, charter or private.”

Kamisar notes that Trump’s plan will be dependent on states chipping in a bunch of their own money, a proposition that shouldn’t be a hard sell in states with Republican governors and legislatures. Good luck selling the idea in places like California, however – the teachers unions just won’t allow it.

Democrats depend on keeping people poor, unhappy and ignorant in schools they dominate.

Trump further said school choice is a “civil right,” language that is certain to draw a rebuke from Hillary and the rest of the lefties who will swear Trump is now against public education and only wants to prop up wealthy white private schools.

The GOP nominee also said teachers should be paid on merit rather than tenure. Wow, what a revolutionary concept!

Of course Trump will need to be elected before any school choice proposal would even be considered. We know for sure Crooked Hillary and her pals in Congress have absolutely no interest in changing the status quo.

And the same goes for most things in government these days. Something to consider as we head into mid-September in this most important of presidential races.

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