WASHINGTON – Ahead of the first debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, each campaign is promising a stark contrast in policy, personality and preparation.
Trump has decided to skip formal preparation, though he said Sunday that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his former 2016 primary rival, Chris Christie, are helping him.
“We had a little debate prep before we came here,” Trump told reporters as Giuliani and Christie looked on in the press briefing room at the White House.
And while Biden's team believes the significance of the debate may be exaggerated, the Democratic nominee has been aggressively preparing to take on the president.
Biden's campaign has been holding mock debate sessions featuring Bob Bauer, a senior Biden adviser and former White House general counsel, playing the role of Trump, according to a person with direct knowledge of the preparations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy. Bauer has not actually donned a Trump costume in line with Trump stand-ins from previous years, but he is representing his style and expected strategy.
“I’m sure the president will throw everything he can at (Biden). My guess is that they’re preparing for that — bombarding him with insults and weird digressions,” said Jay Carney, a former aide to Biden and President Barack Obama.
Trump and Biden are scheduled to meet on the debate stage for the first time Tuesday night at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. The 90-minute event, moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, is the first of three scheduled presidential debates. Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate, will debate in October.
For some, the debates represent the most important moments in the 2020 campaign's closing days, a rare opportunity for millions of voters to compare the candidates' policies and personalities side-by-side on prime-time television. Trump has been trailing Biden in the polls for the entire year, a reality that gives the president an urgent incentive to change the direction of the contest on national television if he can.