- - Thursday, October 6, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump was having a pretty good night in his first debate with Hillary Clinton until he lost his focus on the economy. “It’s the economy, Stupid,” was an invention of Bubba’s first campaign, and it’s good advice for anyone running for president. The economy — reduced to jobs and money in a taxpayer’s pocket — is always first on the mind of the voter. The Donald lost his way when he strayed into the weeds where Hillary was lurking with the bait to lead him to extraneous issues important mostly to him.

Donald Trump has to remember that Sunday night in the second debate at Washington University in St. Louis will be his last chance to overtake Hillary. With a good performance he can be on his way to taking command of the race, and he can seize the moment with a focus on jobs — who has one and who can get one if the right man wins Nov. 8. He has a gift for keeping it simple and saying it plain, and he should say something like this:

“If you like the programs and policies that we’ve had for the past eight years under Barack Obama, and want four more years just like them, then vote for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. If you think the nation needs a better economy, vote for Trump-Pence.” Ronald Reagan said something like that in 1980, and Jimmy Carter was soon on his way back to Plains.

The familiar “deplorables” of the Obama administration, of which Hillary was such a key part, would invite further damage to a pitiful economy. More of the same would invite millions of additional illegal immigrants, and tens of thousands of additional unvetted Syrian refugees, Obamacare premiums soaring out of sight, more despairing workers to add to the 94 million Americans already unemployed or underemployed, a continuing weakest recovery from a recession since the Great Depression, and a GDP growth rate that has never exceeded 3 percent in any single quarter of the Obama presidency.

More than just a sad-sack economy would survive with a Hillary Clinton presidency. So would the war on coal, more radical judges in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would be appointed to the Supreme Court, and the Constitution would be lost for a generation or more. A “transgenderized” military, a failed “reset” with an evermore aggressive Russia, and billions added to the national debt would inevitably follow.

Fresh findings in Rasmussen Reports’ “Right Direction, Wrong Track” polling strongly suggests this line of attack. By a margin of 2 to 1, likely voters think the country is heading in the wrong direction. Only a scant 29 percent of the 2,500 respondents say they think the country is heading in the right direction. Such numbers have been repeated in polling throughout the Obama presidency.

It’s hardly surprising that polling in these years finds Mr. Obama as the most polarizing president in modern history. This is the true legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency, and Hillary promises to continue the very policies and programs that sustain the deep discontent if she wins what would amount to Mr. Obama’s third term.

Sunday night’s debate — and the third and final debate, on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas — will be seen by a national television audience expected to number 80 million or more. It’s now or never for the Donald. He can take inspiration from the performance of Mike Pence, who resisted the temptation to rise to Tim Kaine’s bait, and kept the focus on Hillary and her manifold failures in public life going back to Arkansas. The Donald has an authentic opportunity that comes to few Americans, to become the president of the United States. He shouldn’t waste it on settling scores with private tormentors. Miss Universe, plump or not, is always nice to look at, but she’s irrelevant to a great national election.

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