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Sweet: 5 things Trump, Clinton need to do in Monday’s debate

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both reacted on Twitter to news of a fire and graffiti at a local Republican Party office in North Carolina. | AFP/Getty Images

Follow @lynnsweetThat a storyline the day before Monday’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is over Trump’s threat to invite a former mistress of Bill Clinton to attend demonstrates how far down the rabbit hole this election has descended.

The Clinton and Trump 90-minute showdown at Hofstra University in New York starts at 8 p.m. Chicago time. Solid Trump and Clinton supporters are unlikely to desert because of a poor debate performance. On debate eve, polls show the contest is close, with Trump and Clinton battling for the same prize: educated, undecided female voters.

Here are five things Trump and Clinton each need to do to win the night.

TRUMP

No. 1: Do not encourage Flowers to show up at Hofstra, either as a guest for the debate itself or making the rounds of media pre- and post-debate shows.

I know team Clinton started this trash talk by giving a debate ticket to billionaire Mark Cuban, a supporter.

OPINION

Follow @lynnsweetOne of Trump’s challenges on Monday is to show that he has the temperament to be president as he seeks votes from women.

What could show less class, taste and judgment than bringing up Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades in front of his wife — the first female who has a chance of being elected president.

Reacting to the news that Cuban was going to the debate, Trump tweeted on Saturday, “if dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!”

On Sunday morning, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “Trump was putting them on notice that we could certainly invite guests that may get into the head of Hillary Clinton. But we have not invited her formally and we don’t expect her to there as a guest of the Trump campaign.”

Formally is a wiggle word. If Trump wants to rattle Clinton with a guest, he should find his own Mark Cuban.

No. 2: Find some moments to show empathy.

Trump’s life is one of privilege. He’s had no real-world financial worries. Tell us something we don’t know about you — that is iron-clad true — that shows you can understand how tough life can be.

No. 3: Have some plausible answers when asked about serial lying and an indifference to facts.

Media bashing is good for one round, but not for the entire debate. The New York Times on Sunday devoted a page on 31 “Whoppers” from just one week. POLITICO found 87 erroneous statements in five days, or one falsehood every 3 minutes and 15 seconds for the five hours of public statements made in that time period.

No. 4: Define a common problem. Offer a solution beyond just hiring the best people.

No. 5: Trump’s natural MO is to bully, because that’s who he is. Trump bullies Clinton at his own peril, so he needs to show some discipline.

CLINTON

No. 1: Make Trump look small if he brings up Flowers or her husband’s unfaithfulness, by reminding voters this is about who should be president of the U.S. — not their spouses. Women will get it.

No. 2: If Clinton, recovering from pneumonia, comes into the debate with the potential of a coughing fit — she needs to tell folks early she’s only human — and will be coughing.

No. 3: Trump will likely keep injecting Clinton’s private use of emails while secretary of State, her biggest Achilles heel going into the debate. Don’t blame Colin Powell or anybody else. Take responsibility and apologize again.

Use this as an opportunity to show people how painful this screw-up has been for you, and ask that you be judged — as we all would — by the totality of your record.

No. 4: Another vulnerability is the Clinton Foundation. The foundation actually runs programs and delivers services. Trump infers Clinton got rich from the foundation. That’s not true. And she needs to underscore that we know that because she releases her tax returns — and he won’t.

No. 5: On trust and likability: Clinton cannot be unlikeable, and that’s always harder for women who are accused of being shrill. She needs to use humor as a weapon. On trust, Clinton needs to keep drawing the contrast with Trump and his reality show approach to the presidency.

Tweets by @lynnsweet