5 things Hillary Clinton needs to do in the final debate

(USA TODAY) -- This is the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump before the Nov. 8 election, and both candidates will face tough questions in Las Vegas.

Trump will have to answer for a growing roster of allegations from women accusing him of improper sexual contact, while Clinton is contending with a trove of hacked emails from her campaign chairman, John Podesta.

Here are five things the Democratic nominee needs to do in the final debate:

1. The WikiLeaks cloud

There’s been a stream of embarrassing email exchanges between Podesta and Clinton aides made public through the website WikiLeaks. The campaign argues the hacked communications are being released via a Russian government attempt to influence the U.S. election, but they're not denying the veracity of many of them.

They include exchanges showing internal concerns about everything from Clinton's ability to convey sincerity to her use of a private email server.

While there is no single smoking gun, collectively the messages risk painting a cynical view of her campaign that could endure beyond the election. Clinton must have an effective rejoinder that doesn’t revolve solely around blaming the Russians.

2. Buck up liberals

The biggest risk for Clinton is a demoralized Democratic base, mainly among liberals whose first choice was Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. She needs to reactivate President Obama’s winning coalition that relied on strong turnout among young people and African Americans.

Trashing Trump probably isn’t enough, and time is running out.

Some WikiLeaks exchanges underscore just how significant a struggle this has been for her all along. In one exchange shortly after she lost New Hampshire to Sanders, Joel Benenson, the campaign’s chief strategist, expressed uncertainty about what “she believes or wants her core message to be?”

3. Let Trump be Trump

Since the first debate on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University, Clinton’s largely stayed out of the spotlight as Trump’s campaign reels from accusations about his treatment of women, including numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.

She’s kept a lighter campaign schedule than Trump, opting for private fundraisers and intense debate preparations, while allegations about Trump’s past behavior — and his response to them — have dominated the headlines.

In an election where the public is overwhelmingly negative about both of their options, the outcome appears to hinge on which candidate proves to be the least unpopular choice. In that context, it makes sense for Clinton to pull her punches if it looks like Trump is continuing to drive up his own negative ratings.

4. Sharpen answer on trade

Of all the WikiLeaks emails, the most politically damaging may be an excerpt of a 2013 Clinton speech to a Brazilian bank in which she said her “dream” is “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.”

The transcripts of Clinton’s paid Wall Street speeches have been a flashpoint since the primaries, and this excerpt probably shows why she’s kept them under wraps.

The statement risks inflaming both her liberal base — by pining for the same free-trade deals they’ve railed against — and Trump’s voters, by calling for a freewheeling system of open immigration. They also stand in contrast to the positions she’s taken publicly in this campaign, as Clinton’s insisted she’s a critic of trade deals that have hurt U.S. workers and denied she is for totally open borders.

The debate moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, is almost guaranteed to ask her about this.

5. Be ready, literally, for anything

Based on numerous polls, Trump is trailing Clinton by margins that have proved to be historically difficult to recover from.

During the last debate, Trump invited women who’ve accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to the debate hall to try to confront the former president and in order to create an embarrassing spectacle tarnishing her image.

With Trump already potentially positioning himself for a defeat, arguing the system is “rigged,” it’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of opposition research he’ll throw out or what kind of made-for-TV spectacle he’ll orchestrate.


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