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Clinton needs to drop her 'veil of platitudes' and get real with voters

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton makes a point during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016.
Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton makes a point during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016.

The first presidential debate was akin to the Super Bowl for the pundit class, and all the referees declared Hillary Clinton the winner by unanimous knockout.

But Donald Trump also scored several damaging punches, particularly with the most important voting bloc for his chances to win the presidency: struggling and frustrated blue-collar workers across the Rust Belt states.

So, the real performance starts now in the critical stretch between the first and second debate—where poll trends have the potential of becoming more concrete and the majority of Americans who will actually vote begin paying full attention to both candidates' message and policies (or lack there of).

For Donald Trump, it's clear: put down the Twitter, and pick up a briefing book. His worst enemy has never been the media or Hillary Clinton; it's his own ego. The reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate must know he can't make it through another debate on the sheer force of his own "believe me" and "big league" bluster.

The biggest danger for Hillary Clinton is her own success: with the pundit class declaring her victorious, and the potential of her seeing a small bump in national polls, Clinton might wrongly think she can just keep on keeping with her string of empty platitudes and poll-tested answers for just about everything.

"Clinton needs to explain why she's evolved on so many issues that beloved figures like Sanders were on the right side of when the polls weren't favorable (gay marriage, free trade, free public college, etc)."

But the core reason Rust Belt and blue-collar workers are fleeing to Trump is the inherent lack of authenticity Clinton exudes; a problem 20 years in the making.

Laid off factory workers; workers logging 60 hours between two or three jobs; students with hundreds of thousands in college debt don't feel a basic connection when Clinton speaks to them.

The only way she can put a dent in this image: stop shaping one. For once, get on stage and speak from the heart without a script; explain why she truly wants to become president—and why Donald Trump is wrong about her 30 years in politics making her that same old broken record.

Contrary to her advisers' advise, Clinton needs to address—once and for all— her views on campaign finance reform, acknowledging the fact that she has thrived under the toxic current system and selling Americans on how she would actually clean out the cesspool in D.C. when she has been a card-carrying member (good luck with that).

Most critical for Clinton—and at this point, improbable—tell millennial supporters of Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson why they are wrong about her, going into where they live with a willingness to take a verbal beating.

Talk about the matters that form the most daunting dark cloud over their lives: excessive student loan debt and job insecurity.

For example, with Senator Bernie Sanders by her side at University of New Hampshire campaign stop on Wednesday, why not bring up a college students buried in hundreds of thousands in student loan debt and explain in a clear and non-wonkish way how her plan could concretely and significantly change their situation for the better?

More important than any of this, Clinton needs to drop her veil of platitudes and explain why she's evolved on so many issues that beloved figures like Sanders were on the right side of when the polls weren't favorable (gay marriage, free trade, free public college, etc).

This is critical because, contrary to the Democratic operative and consultant class' hypothesis, millennial voters are often times more savvy and knowledgeable about politicians like Clinton's long record of flip-flopping.

If Clinton doesn't quickly come up with a genuine and believable answer for a career that's often appeared as chasing the poll winds, she'll continue to see the millennial votes she needs falling into the Johnson and Stein camp.

Which ultimately might mean President Trump.


Commentary by Jordan Chariton, a political reporter for The Young Turks, reporting on the presidential campaign trail. He can be seen on TYT Politics. Before TYT, Jordan was a reporter for TheWrap and TVNewser. Follow him on Twitter @JordanChariton.

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