Hemorrhaging support from his own party, Donald Trump faces what may prove to be an impossible task Sunday night in St. Louis, as he looks to save his campaign following the release of a 2005 video that showed him talking in graphic terms about groping women.
Here are five things he needs to do:
1. Stop the bleeding, if that's possible
Donald Trump has faced his share of controversies since launching his presidential campaign in June 2015, some of which left observers wondering whether the real estate mogul was finished — and he survived every one. However, the hit to his candidacy by the latest video may be one from which there is no recovery. Still, if Trump wants any hope of resuscitating his campaign, he'll need a debate performance far different than his opening face off with Hillary Clinton.
Many analysts say Trump needs to be calmer and more measured this time around and talk more about his own plans rather than spend too much time attacking his opponent. Above all: Don't take the bait, as he did with his reaction to Clinton's attack that the New York businessman once described a Miss Universe as "Miss Piggy." Obviously the latest controversy over his boasts about groping women is sure to be raised, and Trump would be wise to do something he's rarely done: Offer an unqualified apology, one that doesn't include attacks against Bill Clinton's past indiscretions or that dismisses his graphic language in 2005 as "locker room banter," as he did in his initial statement after the video was made public.
October, of course, is not just about the campaign but also the time for playoff baseball. So, to draw an analogy, if Trump wants to change the narrative Monday morning, he doesn't just need to throw a shutout Sunday night; he needs a perfect game.
2. Pace yourself
Trump started off strong in the first debate, but seemed to flag in the later stages of the 90-minute event. He needs to conserve energy in the early stages and have a stronger finish. Trump — who shared the stage with numerous rivals during Republican debates — is facing only his second one-on-one contest in the Sunday forum, meaning he has to talk for longer and meet bigger physical and mental demands. The Clinton camp raised questions Trump's "stamina" after that first debate. Another concern: The Republican candidate also tends to say his most outrageous things when he is tired, which he cannot afford to do in the final weeks of the campaign, particularly given the current firestorm.
3. Sell yourself to the audience; i.e., voters.
Sunday's town-hall format is different because it includes questions from the audience. This puts a premium on being responsive and empathetic to the questioners (in this case, uncommitted voters). Trump must avoid arguing with any guest and not get caught by photographers with a look that suggests he's not paying attention. Candidates can get away with being perceived as indifferent or even hostile to media moderators — but not to real people.
4. Be presidential.
Always a debate requirement, especially for someone who has never held public office and who has faced questions throughout the campaign about his readiness to be commander in chief. As with the first debate, Trump needs to counter criticism that he lacks the knowledge and temperament to actually be president. He must demonstrate that he has an understanding of complex foreign and domestic issues and the judgment to deal with them. Trump must somehow also impeach Clinton's qualifications for the job, while demonstrating he is up to the task himself.
5. Enough about the microphone, already.
Trump spent days complaining about the first debate, including the questions from moderator Lester Holt, the performance of the Commission on Presidential Debates and a defective microphone. It may be time for the whining to stop (see item above about being presidential). As Clinton told reporters after the debate: "Anybody that complains about a microphone is not having a good night."