Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Veteran debate advisers say Trump and Biden should come out swinging

By 37ci3 Jun26,2024

WASHINGTON — For all the memos and briefing books presidential candidates have absorbed, there comes a time in the run-up to a debate when an aide has to step up with a little helpful, outspoken campaigning.

“At some point you have to walk into a room and say, ‘We’re going to kick his ass,'” said James Carville, the architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 White House victory. interview. “‘We’re going to watch this mother—–, do you understand?’

Ahead of Thursday’s first general election debate, President Joe Biden holed up in Camp David, Maryland, with advisers, scripts and a one-liner they hope will spark a tantrum that silences Donald Trump.

Trump accepts a more casual approachinterspersing private policy sessions with campaign speeches, which he predicted without evidence that Biden would be “intimidated.” on drugs this sharpens his performance on the debate stage.

Millions of voters will watch the debate live; those who haven’t will surely find their social media feeds full of memes that can indelibly shape their perceptions of the candidates. No other event this election season has the same potential to upend the highly regarded race.

NBC News spoke with more than a dozen strategists and former officials from both parties who worked on the presidential debates to see what Biden and Trump need to do to win.

The consensus is that if Trump appears poised and disciplined, it will go a long way to reassuring Americans worried about his stability and gaining ground among voters who need it. If he uses his time to repeat old grievances that have nothing to do with people’s lives, he’s in for a rough night, many strategists agreed.

“If Trump stays calm and patient, they [the Biden campaign] have problems,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire.

“Spewing words for no reason”

So, what kind of Trump will the nation see in Atlanta?

“We don’t know, do we?” Republican Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives and a Trump ally, said.

Trump’s political base is engaged, but MAGA is not a big enough movement to directly swing the election. He will need independent and suburban women voters, to whom he must appear “smart,” said Jim Messina, who served as President Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2012.

Some operatives believe that the rules of the debate could work in Trump’s favor. CNN will cut off a candidate’s microphone when it’s not his turn to speak. So in 2020, the audience might not hear Trump if he tries to interrupt Biden, which he often does during a debate where Biden breaks down to “shut up.”

“Silence is great for us and great for democracy,” said Philippe Reines, who played Trump during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 debate rehearsals. “But they will be able to hear each other and there will be some weird moments.”

“He’s not going to sit there quietly,” Reines said of Trump. “He’s going to keep talking and Biden will hear him and Biden will respond at some point. You’re going to have a weird situation where Biden seems to be saying things for no reason.

“Stay away from the age issue”

For Biden, the debate is a chance to overcome doubts about his age and intelligence, which are the biggest obstacles to his candidacy. If he can fend off Trump’s attacks and fluently field the moderators’ questions, he can dispel doubts about his readiness for the job.

As difficult as it sounds, the boot camp Biden embarked on is a strain in itself — one that has left the young candidates visibly angry and angry.

During his 2012 re-election campaign, Obama stopped a briefing session and told aides, “If you think it’s easy, do it,” Messina recalled. With that, Obama left the room to take a walk.

Jack Kemp, the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee, was so annoyed by Gregg, who played Al Gore, that he gave him the finger and ran away.

No one cooked up by Biden’s team, strategists say, will be enough to make voters forget his age. Concerns about Biden’s overall health run deep.

A masterclass in overcoming the age issue came in 1984, when then-73-year-old President Ronald Reagan said in a debate with Democrat Walter Mondale that he would “not take advantage of my opponent’s youth and inexperience for political gain.”

Even Mondale was funny.

“The age issue is never going to go away completely,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a top aide to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “It’s not like Biden is going to set up a new paradigm like Reagan did.

“From time to time, the president has to prove to the people with what power he is doing his job,” he said. “The State of the Union output [in March] it was a great moment to realize it. And debates are another big moment.”

Reagan entered the decisive debate with Mondale, having entered a previous debate. Former Republican President Richard Nixon was among those who received personal training through the intermediary.

Former Reagan speechwriter Ken Khachigian writes about Nixon’s personal advice in his next book, Behind Closed Doors: In the Room with Reagan and Nixon: “Reagan should not be interested in facts and figures. The most important thing is behavior. … Your best asset is Reagan and keeping things on the economy. … Keep it fit so that it is flexible and strong. Mondale is still a stupid, dull man.”

Some strategists say Biden may try to defuse questions about age by emphasizing competence. Gingrich suggested that Biden might come up with a few lines at Trump’s expense.

“If I were Biden, I would stay away from the age issue and just say, ‘Look, I was wise enough not to try to overthrow the government of the United States,'” Gingrich said in the interview. I catch”.

‘Can he shoot straight?’

Biden assembled an experienced crew at Camp David to make sure he was ready. Ron Klein, a former White House chief of staff who runs the team, has trained Democratic presidential candidates for televised debates.

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, Robbie Mook, said Klein studies the GOP candidates like an NFL coach watches game tape of opposing teams, looking for patterns and weaknesses to exploit.

One of Klein’s methods is to study what an opponent says before a debate, theorizing that the opponent will repeat the same lines on stage. he once wrote in his memoirs.

“Ron can predict how the opponent will react in specific situations, and in the case of Hillary in 2016, he was able to turn on Trump several times during the debate,” Mook said.

One such moment happened during the first debate between Trump and Clinton in Long Island, New York. Clinton took a personal jab at Trump that quickly put Trump on the defensive. Five minutes later, he mentioned a $14 million loan from his father, dismissing the notion that he had created it himself.

“I remember we were working on this point, and boom, it fell!” Muk said.

Klain now has more fodder to work with. Last month, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump on 34 counts related to hush money payments to a porn star. He was indicted for his role in efforts to nullify the 2020 election that culminated in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. FBI agents raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida home and seized classified documents as part of the criminal investigation that led to his indictment a year ago.

“If I had given him advice [Biden], I would try to make fun of Trump,” former Republican Vice President Dan Quayle said in an interview. “Try to tease him. This will drive him crazy.”

As competent as Biden’s lines are, there are two reasons why they won’t count when the votes are counted. One of the smartest points delivered in the debate came in 1988, when Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen stumped Quayle by challenging any claim that Quayle could be another John F. Kennedy.

“Senator, you are not Jack Kennedy,” Bentsen said.

“It was a good line and he got it down, but did it make any difference?” Quayle said. “We won elections in 40 states.”

Then there is the more fundamental question. Is Biden nimble enough to find the right moment and deliver the line with the necessary clarity? In this regard, Trump? Both men stumbled over names, places and dates in their speeches.

“I have no doubts about him [Biden] is going to go there with a lot of ammunition,” Carville said. “Can he shoot straight? Having ammo is one thing; It’s another thing to hit the f—— target.”

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