By the time most of you read this, the results of the Iowa caucuses will be known. Did Hillary Clinton manage to squeeze by her socialist competitor? Did Ted Cruz’s early momentum have enough juice in the tank to push him past the finish line? The results, whatever they might be, will have an undeniable impact on New Hampshire and beyond.
But even if the results have Cruz and Sanders standing tall, the two underdogs will have to pull off bigger and better upsets down the line, and that may not be in the cards. The smart money right now, regardless of the Iowa results, is on a Clinton-Trump general election. That would have been hard to believe a year ago, but this has been a time for unbelievable things to happen.
Clinton, who still seems surprised that she’s facing a serious challenge in Sanders, has been hesitant to go after the likely Republican nominee. Perhaps she, like many others, thought he would flame out before he got within shouting distance of the convention. She started off thinking, like most insiders, that the nominee would be someone more typical like Jeb Bush. But even though Marco Rubio still has an outside chance of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the primaries, Clinton can no longer afford to ignore the Trump phenomenon.
According to a new story from Politico, the Clinton camp is divided on how to best confront the unpredictable Trump. One likely strategy, endorsed by Clinton herself, is to go after Trump’s record as a businessman.
“People close to Clinton think the key to beating the real estate mogul is to undermine his oft-repeated assertion that he is a great businessman,” writes Politico. “And it fits in with Hillary Clinton’s personal philosophy of politics, often articulated to friends and allies, that ‘attacking an opponent’s strengths,’ not their weaknesses, is the key to any presidential campaign.”
Then there is the other faction in the Clinton campaign, which believes that Trump will be immune to attacks on his business record, no matter how spotty they can make it look. These insiders believe that Trump is winning on the basis of his personality, meaning that they might not be able to easily attack him. Certainly, if there were criticisms that would hurt him from the usual standpoints – he’s racist, he’s a bigot, he’s a Nazi, etc. – they would have done so by now.
The problem with Trump, in both the primaries and the general, is that he’s so damn unpredictable. The Clinton machine is well-oiled, but it’s hard to prepare for an opponent when he might, at any time, say or do anything. It’s like a professional poker player sitting down with someone who barely knows the rules of the game. The usual strategies don’t work. And that’s partly why (if Republicans can stop undercutting him) Trump could be the surprising savior of a party that could never stand up to Obama. When faced with Democrats who will break the law, cheat, and use every avenue of the media to their advantage, the only way to win may be to upset the whole apple cart. Knock over the table. In a phrase: Fight dirty.