Hillary faces her debate with Trump on Wednesday night as well as the next three weeks with a very basic two-prong strategy. First, she needs to avoid mistakes herself and throughout her campaign operation. She has handled the Trump onslaught by deflecting most of the attacks and permitting others and the media to respond to his persistent smears. Clinton has not yet been ruffled by Trump and it may very well be too late for that strategy to work for him. Hillary certainly does not know what Trump may still have up his sleeve, but she needs to just let it pass.
Second, Clinton now has the clear opportunity, given the most recent polls and their trending direction in her favor, to secure a more solid governing base for a Clinton Administration. Hillary can now selectively, personally and financially, promote down-ballot Democrats running for the Senate and the even the House. Trump and especially Speaker Paul Ryan recognize that this strategy is in play, but there may be very little that can be done to stop a Democratic wave.
Trump will call foul no matter what happens and that the election was rigged, stolen, and illegal. Ryan understands the political reality and is playing for his party’s political viability or even existence. The Speaker appears to have finally accepted the fact that his own personal political future is at stake both as party leader and possible future presidential candidate; that his style of political conservativism is being challenged from both sides; and that the very nature of the GOP in the years ahead may very well be determined by the collective national results across the ballot on November 8.
Similarly, Hillary knows that now she can and must placate all flanks of the Democratic Party. Traditional Democrats; Bernie and Elizabeth Warren’s wing; and the security hawks all need to satisfied. She will need all these forces to succeed as President. At the same time, Clinton can use this opportunity to demonstrate party leadership. Her support down the ballot—if successful—could deliver her a very grateful party. This will enable Hillary to govern from the center-left and not be forced to make too many unviable concessions. It also could open up the possibility that the bitter partisan rivalries of the past 8-16 years will be replaced by an actually viable, workable Congress.
It could still be a very long, unpredictable three weeks. No one should expect that Donald Trump will walk quietly into the night.