Elections are won and lost on simple concepts that extend from the candidate's personal brand and how that brand intersects with external events. So, who has the brand that will resonate better with voters: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
Hillary Clinton's brand is endurance. She endured endless humiliations from her husband's reckless affairs. She endured two presidential elections and Clinton administrations in the 1990s, Whitewater, her health-care reform debacle, the Lewinsky scandal, two Senate campaigns, a failed presidential bid, a controversial term as Secretary of State, including Benghazi, and the recent email scandal. Her capacity for sheer endurance is a skill in and of itself that must be acknowledged even if it is not always admired.
Donald Trump's political brand is entertainment. He is, at root, a reality star, a rapper who raps about being a brilliant businessman on television. Trump was a reality star before reality TV and a rapper before rap mainstreamed. The twin pillars of Trump's rap are obscene braggadocio and obsessive ridicule of resonant targets. While, as a citizen, I can barely tolerate typing his name, as a professional in the reputation racket, it's impossible to deny that he has gotten very far on his rap. Having a tycoon father backing him in New York real estate didn't hurt.
In positioning wars you're not only trying to drive up your own assets, you must drive up your opponent's liabilities. You seek to unravel your opponent's brand.
So, what are Hillary Clinton's pitfalls? In the past, she has steadily absorbed attacks when accused of wrongdoing and that has earned her public sympathy. Even her misdirection when under fire has been tolerated as an acceptable response to ceaseless assaults. But nobody wants to elect a president they feel sorry for. If Trump browbeats Clinton during the debates, she won't earn a big sympathy dividend. She has to hit back hard. However, she has to be careful not to respond to attacks with her penchant for seeming exasperated that we're too stupid to understand why she shouldn't be president by now. If she does, Trump will score points.