By Frank Luntz
Frank Luntz is a news analyst and contributor to CBS News and the Fox News Channel
Put Trump on trial
You’ve prepared for this moment for your entire life. Your decades of experience, your knowledge of the issues, and your ability to hit the ground running on Day One make you eminently more qualified and capable than The Donald. He’s going to try to beat you on spectacle. You need to beat him on substance.
Your tone should be confident and prosecutorial, and your case is to prove that Trump is unfit for public office. But please don’t say it. Prove it. Your mission is to demonstrate that every time he talks on the global stage, his words could defile the office, embarrass the country and, yes, even provoke a war. Our polling couldn’t be clearer: If the election is a referendum on Trump, you win.
Remember this as he tries again and again to get under your skin: Trump is the most disliked candidate in modern history. Put him on trial. Rattle him. When he is challenged, he hits back. He loses control. He says dumb stuff. So push his buttons and compel him to reveal to the world that he is not qualified for the job.
So start with the sharpest, strongest contrast you have. At the Republican convention, Trump said, “I alone can fix it.” Your approach was much more popular: better together. Compare and contrast. Tell viewers \what’s wrong before you tell them how to fix it. And please make a direct appeal, by name, to Republicans and Independents:
I know millions of people watching tonight are frustrated with Washington and with their government. They have every right to be frustrated. Our government isn’t working like it should because our democracy isn’t working the way it should. Donald Trump says he alone can fix it. That’s his approach, because everything is about him.
I take a different approach. America is at its best when we are working together, not tearing each other down. If we are to be successful, if we are to ‘win again’ as Donald likes to say, it will require Democrats, Independents and Republicans to cooperate and compromise. There’s a lot that needs to be done, but it won’t happen with this hyper-partisanship or with insults. We need to grow up, act like adults, and remember that we work for the American people, not the other way around.
Your opening should then re-invoke the single biggest blunder of his post-convention campaign: his attack on the Gold Star Khan family.