With the first Presidential Debate done for 2016, here's some independent advice for the major party candidates ahead of round two:

How Clinton can improve her chances

1) Go-bama.
Barack Obama is enjoying unusually high approval ratings for a President at this stage of his second term.

He hovers in the mid-50s, at about the same level as Ronald Reagan was at this stage (54 per cent) and almost twice as popular as George Bush in the final months of the last President's second term (30 per cent).

Bill Clinton was even more popular near the end of his presidency (60 per cent), though the Lewinsky scandal meant Al Gore was reluctant to be associated with him during the 2000 campaign.


Expect Obama to be a fixture on the campaign trail for most of next month.

2) Go-Diverse.
Clinton's best attacks in the debate came near the very end, where she highlighted Trump's history of racial prejudice and sexist behaviour.

She should nail him in the so-called "minority" vote (though how women - more than 50 per cent of eligible voters - are still defined as minority voters, is beyond me).

Pigs! Dogs! Slobs! Tell us again, Hillary. And again and again. Clinton's challenge is not to win over undecided voters, but rather to convince uninspired voters to actually get out and cast a ballot.

If every eligible voter in America casts a vote, Clinton should waltz into the White House.

3) Go-Hollywood.
Movie stars lean left. She mightn't agree to many Q&As for the real press, but playing along as an interviewee on Between Two Ferns did Clinton a whole lot of good in the cool department.

She won't win over Trump supporters with pop culture endorsements, but big name backers might well improve voting turnout among younger Americans, many of whom have been largely ambivalent during the post-primary campaign, and cynical about the major party candidates.

How Trump can improve his chances

1) Debate better.
Trump's real-time-train-of-thought riffing comes across as endearing and funny at his own rallies. He can sound like a drunken beatnik poet and his supporters will follow him down whatever rabbit hole he chooses.

But on the one-on-one debate stage against a well-practiced and considered opponent, he came across as rambly to the point of self-destruction.

Don't mention Rosie O'Donnell! Don't mention Sean Hannity! Stop getting angry. Focus on big ideas and don't change your mind and get caught up on the truth (Facts don't matter).

One of Trump's greatest charms is his disdain for campaign norms, but it might be a good idea to actually practice a bit before debate number two. Is it too late for self-discipline?

2) Attack Clinton's elitism.
Trump never mentioned the Clinton Foundation and its ties to shady foreign governments.

Sure, the moderator brought it up, but Trump could've worked the attack into his answers almost anywhere he liked.

The same applies for Clinton's links to Wall Street. You can be sure Clinton won't mock Trump for saying "bigly" during the debate - it may even have won him votes.

The complexity, irony, and unlikely success of a non-tax-paying billionaire painting himself as the "everyman" is one of the most interesting facets of the race.

3) Hope for disaster.
Cynical and awful it may be, but an Islamic-inspired terror attack on US soil between now and November 8 would have the potential to quickly boost Trump's numbers.

Clinton's is a campaign of deliberate, continued progress.

Trump's is a campaign of nostalgia and fear. Fear is a powerful thing.