Thursday night’s debate may be the last opportunity President Donald J. Trump has to move ahead of his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, before Election Day 2020. In order for the incumbent president to make headway across the nation and pull in voters, debate coaches say he must do two things: be more likable and stop interrupting Biden.
In an appeal to the American public, Trump is expected to tell more jokes on the debate stage and try to set a softer tone. This, of course, is bound to get murky when he berates Biden’s late son, Hunter Biden, as expected.
Trump’s team thinks that Biden will “look doddering” and “step on himself” if he is given the space to answer questions and isn’t being interrupted the whole night. “Don’t save him,” is the advice a Trump adviser told Axios.
The Washington Post reported that in the September debate Trump interrupted Biden 71 times, compared with Biden’s 22 interruptions of Trump. At the time, moderator Chris Wallace asked, “Mr. President, your campaign agreed both sides would get two-minute answers, uninterrupted. Your side agreed to it, and why don’t you observe what your campaign agreed to as a ground rule?”
Trump’s team went back to his third debate against Hillary Clinton in 2016 for inspiration.
“All Trump has to do is give people permission to vote for him,” one source close to the campaign tells Axios. “He did exactly the opposite of that in the first debate. So hopefully he can right the ship in this one, because his re-election may depend on it.”
The reality is that Trump regularly throws rules out the window without consequence. Will this time really be any different?
“It was clear Trump didn’t study his debate document for round one,” one campaign source said.
The next and last presidential debate will air Thursday, Oct. 22 from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. with moderator Kristen Welker. The format will be six segments of approximately 15 minutes each.