So maybe it’s time to try something new before the second debate, eh, Mr. Trump?
That seems to be where Trump’s advisers are going, considering Monday night’s first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton was pretty much horrid, and revealed Trump to be so far out of his element on a debate stage (something most of us gathered from the primaries), that drastic preparations are needed before he tries it again.
The new line of preparations will include teaching him how to go after Clinton’s vulnerabilities. He had several opportunities to do that in the first debate and other than a passing acknowledgment, he let them slide.
There will also be an effort to fill him with pertinent facts and figures on issues facing the nation today. It’ll sort of be like prepping him for an appearance on “Jeopardy.” Hopefully, that’s how they’ll frame it. Reality TV and game shows have much in common, so maybe that’s something in his particular wheelhouse, that he can grasp.
Given that his advisers utterly failed in their attempts to prepare him for the first debate, I would say drastic measures are now warranted.
If reports are true, however, the blame can’t be laid fully in their laps. They tried.
For starters, the candidate bears a significant amount of responsibility for making sure he’s prepared before going out on that stage.
According to a piece in the New York Times today, the internal back-and-forth on what happened Monday night, and what needs to happen going forward is in a frenzy.
Even as Mr. Trump’s advisers publicly backed him on Tuesday and praised his debate performance, they were privately awash in second-guessing about why he stopped attacking Mrs. Clinton on trade and character issues and instead grew erratic, impatient and subdued as the night went on. In interviews, seven campaign aides and advisers, most of whom sought anonymity to speak candidly, expressed frustration and discouragement over their candidate’s performance Monday night.
They blamed his overstuffed schedule, including a last-minute rally in Virginia that was added days before the debate. They blamed the large number of voluble people on his prep team, including two retired military figures with no political background. And they blamed the lack of time spent on preparing a game plan in the first place.
He overstuffs his schedule because he needs the open adoration of his glassy-eyed sycophants. He needs constant reminders of his greatness, or he wilts. Everything else is the flotsam and jetsam of a political life that he has no real interest in, other than how he can elevate himself, personally, through it.
During Monday night’s debate, Trump missed opportunities to bring up Clinton’s email scandal (which could have easily wedged into the discussion about cyber security), her failure in Benghazi, and a host of issues that a more seasoned political pro could have hammered home to the utter devastation of Clinton.
But Trump’s loyalists didn’t want a “politician.” They wanted an arrogant elitist, with no experience, and no ability to discuss issues, so this is what they got.
Some of the advisers want to practice getting under his skin, as Mrs. Clinton did, to gauge his response, but they offered no details about doing so. Others wanted practice sessions built around the next debate’s format, a town-hall-style meeting, where Mr. Trump is likely to engage with undecided voters asking him questions and, at times, move from his chair to walk the stage. Mr. Trump has little experience with the format, which can be challenging for people who do not practice managing their body language and movements.
Several advisers also want to impress upon him the need to stick to a strategy and a plan of battle against a female candidate — the kind of opponent he has less experience facing — rather than spend time polishing a string of disparate zingers that Mrs. Clinton, a skilled debater, was able to easily parry Monday night.
This is true. I believed from the beginning that the Clinton strategy would be to bait him, remain calm, and let him implode on stage. This is exactly what happened. He has an ego, and that is his weakness.
Going into Monday, advisers encouraged him to have mock debates, so that he’d have a feel for what was to come, but having no patience for it, he rejected the idea. His idea of prep was speaking with his advisers (quite a few with no political experience) and getting his ego boost from rallies.
There were early efforts to run a more standard form of general election debate-prep camp, led by Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News chief, at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. But Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings, according to multiple people briefed on the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That left Mr. Ailes, who at the time was deeply distracted by his removal from Fox and the news media reports surrounding it, discussing his own problems as well as recounting political war stories, according to two people present for the sessions.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and a friend of Mr. Trump’s who has been traveling with him extensively, took over much of the preparation efforts by the end. But with Mr. Trump receiving so much conflicting advice in those sessions, he absorbed little of it.
He was prepped on things to look for with Clinton, such as phrases she favors and things she would likely bring up, but he couldn’t translate any of that into a lasting, positive debate performance.
“It clearly looked like he ran out of gas after 30 minutes, and that came through loud and clear,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has not supported Mr. Trump.
“Trump needs to show a higher level seriousness, so that he’s better positioned as an agent of change,” Mr. Reed added. “If he can accomplish that, he’ll win undecided voters and late-breaking voters who clearly don’t want to support Hillary Clinton.”
Trump needs to show a higher level of seriousness, but he won’t, because he’s not a serious candidate.
He’s a reality TV star with aspirations that are higher than doing another season of “The Apprentice.”
He’s delegated all the real work and done little but serve as the public face of a brand for years. Now he’s in a position where he sinks or swims on his own work ethic, and he’s floundering.
I don’t feel sorry for him, at all.