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To win, Hillary Needs to Define the Game

Politicians spend a lot of money and effort hiring experts to help them achieve one of their most important goals: Framing the issues. Once the issue is framed in the mind of voters, it’s almost impossible to alter its perception.

Call your position pro-life, you’ve got a shot. Let it be framed as anti-choice, and you’re doomed. Call it an inheritance tax, you might get some support. Let it be framed as a death tax, and you’re, well, dead.

This is another way that politics is like sports. The coach of each team in a big game has one key job: Strategize how to have the game be played in a way and at a pace that is most advantageous to your team. If the other team is fast, slow the game down. If they are strong, make it about speed. The team that dominates the style of play dominates the game. If the opponent has a great run defense, pass. If you’ve got a great navy, don’t start a land war. Don’t play the game. Play the player.

Hillary should play the game she was born to play; both because it’s a game at which her opponent is exceedingly poor and because it will reframe an election that has devolved into a slapstick reality show that makes The Real Housewives seem like a Ken Burns documentary.

What am I suggesting? Hillary should stop the funny.

Yes, the “Delete Your Account” was a fun and popular line that went viral. And those kinds of lines are difficult to resist. But they should be resisted because they play right into the hands of Donald Trump. They reduce the game to an exchange of insults, and that’s exactly where he wants it. That’s exactly where he excels. Turning this election into Friar’s Club Roast is the one and only way Trump can win. Hillary could choose Jeffrey Ross as her running mate and she’d still lose if this is the game she plays.

Muhammad Ali was famous for his rope-a-dope strategy. He’d cover up in a corner, let his opponent attack, and then wait for him to punch himself out. While in the corner, his opponent felt like they were winning. But Ali knew knew the other fighter was playing right into his hands. He framed the fight. And then he framed the photos of himself wearing the belt after it was over.

(This is funny. It’s also a big strategic mistake.)

Little Marco. Low energy Jeb. Lyin’ Ted. At one moment or another, they all attempted to beat Trump at his own game. He was just waiting in the corner for them to do just that. Once the game was on his turf, it was over. The right move is to re-frame the entire election and repeatedly make it clear that these locker room towel-snaps have no place on the road the White House. Cede the funny. Own the serious. And make it clear that serious is exactly what this job is about.

Hillary will get to be the Commander in Chief if she’s willing to let Trump hang on to his title as class clown. If it’s a roast, she’s toast.

Dave Pell writes the quick and, well, funny NextDraft Newsletter.

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