A memo for Democratic candidates from debate strategists Ron Klain and John Neffinger advises an aggressive approach to messaging in the 2018 midterms. The document, obtained by Axios, advises Democrats to stay on the offensive this year, to "smile ... and attack."
"Debates are much more confrontational now," argues Klain, who has worked with every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992. "The emphasis has shifted from persuading undecided voters to motivating your own supporters, and showing your supporters you'll fight for what you believe in."
That means goals like "staying above the fray" or "just getting my own message out" aren't good enough, the memo argues. This is not a time for going high when opponents go low.
Strategies thus include maintaining a small smile to look like you are the candidate having the most fun; preparing one-liner comebacks, especially if you're facing a Trump-y candidate who has a few favorite phrases; resisting the urge to play fact-checker on stage; and ending answers with direct attacks on the opponent. And when shaping the post-debate coverage, the memo concludes, "[l]ook for specific issues raised in the debate, especially (but not exclusively) gaffes or odd answers or behavior by your opponent." Bonnie Kristian