The Clinton campaign has had a rocky couple of weeks, to be sure. What once looked like a path to a blowout now looks close. In looking at the Clinton campaign, it's fundamental problem is obvious: it can convince people not to vote for Trump, but that doesn't mean those same people will vote for Clinton. To put it bluntly, she has been hoping so hard for Trump to self-destruct that she has failed to make a case for herself. With the first debate tomorrow, Clinton has the perfect opportunity.
That case has to be made, especially with voters who ought to be friendly to her. While Clinton has managed to get the support of some prominent high level Republicans, that will only repel elements of the Democratic base, who worry about her commitment to progressive politics. Many voters who ought to be voting for Clinton are opting for Stein or Johnson, especially among younger voters.
She needs to cultivate that potential base, and can easily do so by promoting policies that she has already championed. For instance, she supports subsidized day care, a major boon to young parents and especially to women. When Trump rolled out his own bullshit plan based in tax breaks that would mostly help those who don't need it, I was amazed at how little discussion Clinton's much more generous proposal had received. In fact, Trump was allowed to claim that Clinton has yet to propose anything at all. Unlike Trump she also has a plan for college debt relief, another issue dear to young voters, but one that might actually be less galvanizing than day care. Clinton needs to be flogging those issues big time.
She especially needs to reach out to African American millennials, who support her at a much lower level than blacks of older generations. There is plenty of justified skepticism, based on her demonization of "superpredators" in the 90s in support of incarceration legislation. With Black Lives Matter protestors ought in the streets in the wake of multiple, prominent killings of African Americans at the hands of the police, she needs to strongly register her support.
What I think she needs to do is to repudiate the triangulation strategy perfected by her husband, because it is destroying the Democratic party. The moderate "soccer mom" types only vote in the presidential elections, leaving the disaffected base to save the midterms after years of neglect. This meant massive blowout losses in 2010 and 2014, maintaining a radically conservative Congress. If Clinton does not motivate the party's base to support her, she might as well not even be president, because she will be hamstrung by a Congress out to destroy her. There is a younger generation that is much more receptive to social democratic ideas, it must be cultivated and listened to. The Democrats keep disrespecting their base, and then wonder why they can't sustain its support. Maybe, instead of bowing and scraping to draw the dwindling number of suburban voters who show up to the polls but are too confused to know what side they are, the Democrats should mobilize the people who actually put them in office.
Last, but not least, Clinton needs to do something that major party candidates rarely do: confront third party candidates. Stein and Johnson are siphoning votes away, and guilt-tripping voters won't work. For those Sandersnistas saying they'll vote for Johnson, the answer is pretty clear. Clinton needs to let voters know the reality of libertarianism, and that it is mainly focused on funneling money to the wealthy, not on legal weed. There are a lot of voters who know they could never cast a ballot for Trump, Clinton cannot take for granted that she will automatically get their votes.