According to a Friday report in Politico, the incumbent is studying Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s idiosyncrasies, hoping to trip up the former vice president and avoid any missteps from four years ago.
In 2016, Trump refused to conduct a mock debate, he didn’t allow anyone to play former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and he would not simulate the question-and-answer dynamic between moderator and candidates.
The president reportedly viewed his first-round fight with Clinton as a failure and is shaking up his previous strategy ahead of September, White House officials, campaign aides and outside advisers confirmed.
As one of his key arguments, the 74-year-old president plans to attack the 77-year-old former vice president for his age and mental acuity, hoping to find certain tells, words or phrases to amp up Biden’s frustration.
Top Trump advisers began to discuss the debates in early August at the president’s New Jersey golf resort. Their work will intensify in the next few weeks on the heels of the Republican National Convention.
Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, top campaign adviser Jason Miller and relatively new campaign manager Bill Stepien are leading the charge.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and senior adviser Jared Kushner have also been present for discussions.
Biden is a different politician than Clinton and he’s always portrayed himself as a blue-collar “Average Joe” — an image many workers who have supported Trump in the past can identify with.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens during an October 2016 debate. (Mark Ralston/Pool via AP) (The Associated Press)
The timing, the staging, the practice, the briefing books, and the memorization are aspects Trump is allegedly uncomfortable with and all things he is working to perfect before the first debate, slated for Sept. 29.
As Politico notes, many of the rehearsals have been held outside of the White House — often in Bedminster, N.J. — and so far, the team has held at least three strategy meetings and prep sessions. They’ve tried to hold one approximately every 10 days.
The role of Biden has yet to be cast, though the production’s aides have closely examined Biden’s 2012 debate against former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and the campaign speeches he gave stumping for Clinton in 2016.
There has also been a marked disagreement among the president’s advisers about how best to hit Biden: on issues or as he stutters. Biden has a history of stuttering and an aggressive action could backfire on the president.
Nevertheless, Trump’s assaults against Democratic policies viewed as radical or extreme left — like those on taxes, abortion, immigration, and the multitrillion dollar “Green New Deal” — have won him points with even the most middle-of-the-road voters.
Politico pointed out that Trump plans to slam Biden’s 47-year record in the Senate: a potential return to his “Drain the Swamp” slogan.