Grading Sunday’s Debate Will Be Tough
Many have criticized Donald Trump for what appeared to be a lack of preparation for the first presidential debate on Sept. 26. Ted Cruz even offered to work with him to hone his debating skills. Trump blamed part of his lackluster performance on the microphone, which sounded fine on TV, but which was lower volume in the hall. But if that’s the case, why didn’t he just complain at the time—simply ask the moderator to increase his volume?? Instead of whining afterward?
Regardless. Trump claims that he is not going to prep for Sunday’s debate, either.
This was not the debate tune-up that jittery Republicans were hoping for.
Only days before Donald Trump must face Hillary Clinton in a town-hall style presidential debate, the GOP nominee added just such an event in New Hampshire. It was seemingly a concession to anxious allies and advisers hoping he might hone his skills in what can be a difficult format even for the most dexterous of politicians. . .
“I said forget debate prep. I mean, give me a break,” Trump said at one point. “Do you really think that Hillary Clinton is debate-prepping for three or four days. Hillary Clinton is resting, okay?”
Sunday’s debate will be a “town hall” style, allowing audience members to ask questions. And although Trump held a “town hall” rally Thursday, Sunday will be quite different.
The format was nothing like what Trump will face in St Louis, when half the questions will be posed by uncommitted voters, and the candidates will have two minutes to respond to each question as Martha Raddatz of ABC and Anderson Cooper of CNN serve as moderators.
On Thursday night, Howie Carr, a conservative radio host and Trump booster, played the role of moderator, and the crowd was hand-picked by his campaign. The audience didn’t even ask Trump their questions. Carr did so on their behalf. Before the event, Carr had said Trump would take 20 questions. He stayed for about a dozen. . .
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who made the town-hall format central to his candidacy and has been coaching Trump ahead of Sunday’s debate, joined Trump on this trip to New Hampshire, presumably to provide pointers on his performance both before and after.
Trump’s strategy for the first debate may have been simply to appear civilized. While pundits complained that he “lost,” if his goal was to seem subdued, he succeeded wonderfully. Now, the Washington Times said, that’s good, because now, the gloves can come off.
One of the biggest ironies of the first presidential debate is that Donald Trump’s reluctance to aggressively attack Hillary Clinton has now given him the license to fully do so.
Going into the debate — his debut on the world’s biggest stage — everyone, including his closest aides, was telling him that he must achieve plausibility: That is, he needed to reassure voters by looking reasonable, confident and self-possessed. If he were able to demonstrate an even temperament and basic command of the issues, voters could picture him behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office — and Mrs. Clinton’s negative ads about his unfitness would melt away. . .
An Arkansas source says that Mrs. Clinton’s debate prep crew has coached her to maintain an air of superiority around Mr. Trump while trying to provoke him. They tell her to avoid getting upset so as not to feed the “Angry Hillary” narrative and to dismiss him as a serious contender every chance she gets.
Therein lies the critical lesson for Mr. Trump: No matter what abuse she hurls his way, he mustn’t let it misdirect him down a defensive rabbit hole. There’s no time for that. . .
If Mrs. Clinton thinks the final two debates are going to resemble the first one, she may face a very unpleasant surprise.
However, while hinting at it earlier, Trump says he will not attack Hillary on Bill Clinton’s past, according to NewsMax.
Donald Trump had been hinting he’d bring up Bill Clinton’s past indiscretions at the second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton on Sunday — but now the billionaire real-estate tycoon says he won’t. . .
A lawyer for some of the women who claim to have had liaisons with the former president seems to lend credence to Trump’s new reluctance to talk about the Clinton scandals.
Candice Jackson told the gossip website that one of the women had been willing to go to the first debate and “Trump talked about having her there, but there was no follow-through.”
Of course, Trump has said one thing and done another before. It’s his way of keeping his opposition on their toes—and also, he relies on his instincts (“his gut”) and does whatever he thinks will work at the moment, regardless of his prior plans—or the wishes of his advisors.
But another technique is to simply raise a question, rather than giving an answer. During the primaries, Trump said he “heard” something, and then the media were challenged to try to find the substance he hinted at. It’s a brilliant strategy, because the story then comes from “the media,” not him, and therefore, has more general credibility.
It’s also effective, without sullying his own image, by only hinting. He can say he “read in the Enquirer” that Ted Cruz father may have helped kill JFK. Obviously, Trump didn’t believe that, did he!
So we can’t be sure if we’ll see the attack Trump or the “presidential” Trump, but that scares Hillary’s staff.
Fox News says Trump will be OK if he remembers five things.
• LEARN FROM PENCE
The reaction to Pence’s debate performance was everything the GOP ticket had hoped for when Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, took on Clinton, the Democratic nominee, last week. Pence won the post-debate polls that Trump lost, and partisans on both sides praised the Indiana governor’s calm and collected approach. . .
• BE PREPARED
Trump reportedly didn’t practice much ahead of his own debate. That backfired, as he found out primary and general election debates are completely different animals. During the primaries, a crowded stage allowed Trump to land pointed blows and retreat into the background, limiting lengthy policy discussions. That’s not possible in a one-on-one scrap, and especially not in the town hall format that will be used Sunday in St. Louis. There are signs that Trump is devoting more time to practicing for the debate this time.
• KEEP FIGHT ON FAVORABLE GROUND
Trump actually was doing well in the first debate — for 30 minutes. He hammered Clinton over her position on trade, an issue his camp believes will resonate with the Rust Belt voters he needs to secure states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. “He needs to stick to the offense and on his ground as opposed to taking the bait any time there’s a charge against him, “ said University of Michigan debate expert Aaron Kall. “Stick to the things that got you there — your message on trade, the economy, outsourcing and immigration.”
• CONNECT PERSONALLY
The town hall puts a premium on connecting with the voters. And with the favorability ratings of both candidates in the gutter, there’s quite some room to grow. Trump’s campaign has argued over the past few days that he’s better at connecting with people than Clinton and that her over-prepared nature won’t serve her as well on Sunday as it did last week. “There’s no amount of programming or different lines that someone can memorize going into a town hall format,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day” of Clinton.
• WATCH OUT FOR INTERRUPTIONS AND UNFORCED ERRORS
While Clinton won the post-debate polls, Trump also made a handful of slip-ups that continue to haunt him. Trump’s repeated interruptions hurt him in the first debate of 2016, just as they hurt Kaine in the vice presidential showdown.
OK, to sum up. . .Trump is much better at connecting with people than Hillary is. A townhall setting is better suited to his style, since they will be talking directly to one person in the audience, and there will be less opportunity for him to interrupt Hillary’s responses. However, Trump is not used to answering questions from those who are not already on his side—and there will be “nowhere to hide,” as there was in the primary debates.
On the other hand, while Hillary is awful talking to “people,” she is usually excellent at speaking one-on-one, so she may actually surprise people by the way she listens, and the way she fashions her answer to the exact question asked.
Grading this debate will be tough.