Americans will tune in tonight to the final presidential debate. While voters should hear a debate on the many important topics that have gone unaddressed in previous debates, pre-debate shenanigans suggest that it may be more of the same with more discussion about the guests in attendance than the future of our nation.
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace will serve as the moderator for tonight’s debate, marking the first time in the network’s twenty-year history that a Fox News journalist has taken the helm of a general election presidential debate. Despite Fox News’ conservative reputation, expect Chris Wallace to press both candidates hard on hot-button issues such as foreign policy, national security and the economy, among others.
One thing is clear: the 2016 presidential election has been predictably unpredictable. Over the course of the election, it seems as if a day doesn’t pass without some twist or turn sending the media, political establishment and electorate into a frenzy. The top of the ticket is affecting down ballot races as well, with control of the Senate – and potentially even the House of Representatives – also up for grabs. For most of the campaign, candidates have tried to walk a fine line with voters, navigating a polarized and volatile political climate. During these final remaining weeks and with early voting underway, voters and candidates must finally take a stand.
For many of my colleagues who are campaign veterans and former reporters, and even for casual observers, it’s easy to allow this election to be fully consuming. It fills the 24-hour news cycle on every level, even including the sports pages. And, while campaigns are always focused on Election Day, I think for this cycle we are all intensely counting down the days – 20 to be exact – until this spectacle is over and when we can comfortably check our Twitter and Facebook feeds again. While Election Day will produce clear winners and losers, it will not clear the air. Even though Hillary Clinton surpasses Donald Trump when it comes to favorability, neither of the candidates is broadly liked, as evidenced by a litany of polls conducted during the course of this election.
Historically, we fixate on the first hundred days of a new president’s administration. This election will demonstrate the special importance of the time period that precedes those first 100 days. Both parties will move at unprecedented speed to set their future course, place their personnel, and activate ground games to advance their agendas. There’s even a chance that if Congress flips, President Obama will be in a position to accomplish some final goals before he leaves office. By Inauguration Day, the playbook will have already been set.
For the new or returning House and Senate majorities, there will be a certain shakeup in committee leadership, making policy issues even more consequential. The Senate is currently comprised of 54 Republicans, 46 Democrats, meaning five seats are need to flip control and at present anywhere from six to eight Senate races are viewed as competitive. The House is made up of 246 Republicans, 187 Democrats with 30 seats needed to change control. There are more than 30 competitive House races, about half of which are toss-ups. In an unpredictable election year, anything is possible. And, the size of the new majority will directly impact the prospects of the next president’s policy agenda.
Among the policy priorities for 2017 that will likely see action are tax reform, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, banking reform, foreign trade, wages and jobs, and funding for transportation infrastructure. Each one brings opportunities and consequences for every corporation, institution and organization. Exercising your right to vote on November 8th is just plain commonsense. Before you cast a vote, think about what a vote for Donald Trump means for the future of democracy and the principles on which this great county has been built. Yesterday, President Barack Obama exacted his latest rebuke of Donald Trump’s behavior and once again questioned whether or not he truly understands the kind of temperament that is necessary as president.
“You start whining before the game’s even over?” President Obama said. “You don’t have what it takes to be in this job because there are a lot of times when things don’t go our way, or my way… I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”
As Mr. Trump prepares – or does not prepare – for tonight’s debate, I have one piece of advice to offer: it’s time to get serious about this election and understand that the behavior exhibited in The Apprentice Board Room is not fit for the Oval Office.