There are some... very strange assertions in your article, Mr. Marks.
When it comes to strategic messaging, most political debates involve all of the participants sending the same underlying message: “I am the best candidate for the job.” Because these messages are mutually exclusive – after all, they can’t all be the best person for the job – one candidate’s deliberate messaging is not likely to reinforce or support the underlying message of their opponent(s). Everybody is playing the same game, and the winner is determined by who avoids making the most mistakes while scoring the most points.
Your argument, then, is that the winning strategy for political office is to play up one's unsuitability for public office. I'm not going to dismiss that out of hand, but it's not a statement that should be accepted at face value. Do you have examples of other protest candidates that have used this strategy effectively?
In a lot of ways, Trump’s message changes the rules of the game, and renders a lot of admissions that would be crippling in the hands of a career politician into strengths.
This is an assertion, not an argument. Trump's unfavorability ratings are, if I'm not mistaken, the highest of anyone who has ever run for high office. In Trump's own words, his base is solid - he could famously "shoot someone on the street" and not lose support. But as Ezra Klein pointed out last night, Trump needs to gain voters in order to win the election, not simply prevent their loss.
Or, put another way, in the process of presenting her underlying strategic message, she was reinforcing Trump’s as well.
I consider myself fairly well-versed on the platforms of both candidates and I would characterize Trump's "strategic message" as "incoherent." Here, Trump is explaining his tax policy:
They are going to expand their companies and do a tremendous job. I'm getting rid of the great thing for the wealthy, it's a great thing for the middle class and for companies to expand and when these people are going to put billions and billions of dollars into companies and when they are going to bring $2.5 trillion back from overseas where they can't bring the money back because politicians like Secretary Clinton won't allow them to bring the money back because the taxes are so onerous and the bureaucratic red tape, it's so bad.
"They are going to expand their companies and do a tremendous job. I'm getting rid of the great thing for the wealthy..."
It's been observed over and over again that debates aren't about message, they're about sentiment and the only time Trump managed to convey a coherent sentiment was when he pledged to release his tax returns if Clinton released 33,000 emails. But then Clinton said, effectively, "oopsie about the emails" and Trump stood there flat-footed and silent.
If you are already a Trump supporter, I can see how the debates last night might hit a few happy spots for you. But if you're on the fence, there was no meat whatsoever from the Trump camp to entice you over. Your words:
The second, and probably better approach (and the approach that would likely have been taken were this a Canadian debate), would be to present Trump as the irresponsible buffoon – after all, people like the roguish and wily outsider, while they detest the blowhard idiot who just makes things worse.
I have a son. He's 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it's unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it's hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing, but that's true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester, and certainly cyber is one of them.
That's not the statement of a world leader. That's "series of tubes" bad. That's "an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday" bad. I will agree that one can triangulate one's way to a Trump victory out of that performance... but one would have to be firmly there already.