Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will engage in a bitter, backbiting exchange of insults for the next three months, culminating in the ugliest, least presidential, Presidential election of all time. The insults and jabs will fly fast and furious and in the end the US will elect a candidate so horribly tarnished that he or she will likely have the lowest public approval ratings of any President elect.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The Clinton campaign could, instead, elevate the campaign substantially by simply ignoring Donald Trump. Trump will get free media attention commensurate with the amount of time, attention, and money Hillary heaps upon them. He will be constantly in the news while spending precious little, and for Trump that is critical because he has precious little money to spend. By all accounts, his fundraising is anemic, and he has nowhere near the war chest Hillary has. His only hope is to compete on her dime. So far, she is allowing him to do just that.
Instead, Hillary should a) focus a substantial amount of her fire on Johnson and Weld. She should make them her principal adversary.
The idea for Hillary is to raise awareness of the Libertarian ticket to split the GOP vote. She should spend a considerable amount of resources trying to ensure that a) the J-W ticket is included in the debates and b) that the GOP base is well aware that there is an alternative ticket comprised of two popular former governors. By driving up the name ID and exposure of the Libertarian ticket, Hillary takes the focus off of Trump, and gets him less media attention with every attack.
There is a degree of finesse to this strategy as it would require use of a lot of good data to segregate Hillary’s turnout universe from the universe of Republicans. She would need to maintain her base’s deep distaste for Trump while simultaneously pushing her opponent’s base away from Trump and into the Libertarian camp. Fortunately, her friends in the media are already helping. Johnson-Weld have enjoyed very favorable press, thus far. They have already set Hillary up to pivot to attacking them. She has the ability to credibly attack a third party ticket that would not normally receive any mention from the Democrats simply because they are already on the radar. In recent polling, the J-W ticket is drawing as much as 13% nationally. By citing this “rising threat” to her candidacy, Hillary can legitimately begin aim fire in their direction while ignoring Trump’s tantrums.
There is an argument that the candidates in the GOP primary tried this tack and it didn’t play out very well. They attacked each other, while ignoring Trump, and it failed. However, that was in a primary contest split 16 ways in which most of the candidates stood a hair width apart on most issues. In a general election matchup, the goal is not to appeal to the same voters supporting Trump, but to divide them so you can conquer. That will be impossible without identifying a viable alternative for those voters to support. Hillary helps herself by hammering Johnson and Weld.