Trump’s big de­bate chal­lenge: Keep­ing his cool if Clin­ton at­tacks

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Julie Pace AP White House Cor­re­spon­dent

>> Don­ald Trump’s ad­vis­ers are urg­ing him to keep his cool dur­ing next week’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate and re­sist at­tempts by Hil­lary Clin­ton to pro­voke him with ques­tions about his busi­ness record, wealth or con­tro­ver­sial com­ments about mi­nori­ties.

The fo­cus un­der­scores the cam­paign’s con­cern that too many Amer­i­cans still don’t be­lieve the Repub­li­can has the tem­per­a­ment to be pres­i­dent, which could be a dif­fer­ence-maker in a close race with Clin­ton.

“He can’t let Hil­lary get un­der his skin,” said Newt Gin­grich, the for­mer House speaker and Trump ad­viser.

Gin­grich is part of a ro­tat­ing cast of politi­cians and pol­icy ex­perts trav­el­ing with Trump on his pri­vate plane for mid-flight de­bate prepa­ra­tions, ac­cord­ing to Repub­li­cans fa­mil­iar with the prepa­ra­tions. Oth­ers in­clude re­tired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who is ad­vis­ing Trump on na­tional se­cu­rity, and economist Peter Navarro. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a loyal Trump sup­porter, has been help­ing on is­sues such as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­la­tion­ship with the states.

Trump has es­chewed the kind of mock de­bate set­ups can­di­dates tra­di­tion­ally use to get ready for the high­pres­sure events and hasn’t tapped any­one to play Clin­ton in his prep ses­sions. But aides say he is study­ing writ­ten brief­ing ma­te­rial on do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional is­sues and is also talk­ing through top­ics with ad­vis­ers.

“He’s a for­mi­da­ble, well­pre­pared can­di­date with a for­mi­da­ble, well-pre­pared team,” said Navarro, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine.

Some Trump aides are more con­cerned about Trump’s dis­po­si­tion on the de­bate stage than his command of the is­sues, ac­cord­ing to Repub­li­cans who in­sisted on anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss the pri­vate de­bate prepa­ra­tions.

In par­tic­u­lar, Trump ad­vis­ers are try­ing to steel him for the like­li­hood that Clin­ton will aim to get a rise out of him on live tele­vi­sion in front of what both cam­paigns ex­pect to be a record-set­ting au­di­ence.

The Repub­li­can has long lashed out at crit­ics in deeply per­sonal ways, es­pe­cially af­ter a per­ceived slight. Clin­ton has raised that habit as ev­i­dence that Trump is too thin-skinned to be trusted with nu­clear weapons and other life-and-death de­ci­sions that cross a pres­i­dent’s desk.

Vot­ers seem to share Clin­ton’s con­cerns. Ac­cord­ing to a new AP-GfK poll, just 30 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers say they con­sider Trump at least some­what qual­i­fied to be pres­i­dent. Only 24 per­cent con­sider him at least some­what civil, while half con­sider him at least some­what racist.

It’s un­clear how ag­gres­sive Clin­ton will be in try­ing to bait Trump dur­ing Mon­day night’s face­off at New York’s Hof­s­tra Univer­sity. On the cam­paign trail and in tele­vi­sion ads, she’s tar­geted Trump’s crit­i­cism of a U.S.-born judge of Mex­i­can de­scent, his feud with an Amer­i­can-Mus­lim fam­ily whose son was killed in Iraq while serv­ing in the Army and his mock­ing of a dis­abled re­porter. She’s also chal­lenged his busi­ness suc­cess and sug­gested he isn’t re­leas­ing his taxes to the pub­lic be­cause he’s not as wealthy as he con­tends.

“We have no doubt that his han­dlers are pre­vail­ing on him to ar­rive at the de­bate more sub­dued and to try to sup­press his true self,” said Brian Fal­lon, Clin­ton’s spokesman. “Clearly his ad­vis­ers agree that that is not a very pres­i­den­tial im­age.”

Trump back­ers say the real es­tate mogul is pre­pared to stay steady no mat­ter what Clin­ton throws at him.

“We’re go­ing to see the de­bate prep mak­ing sure that she’s not go­ing to be able to pull him some­how off the mes­sage,” said Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Repub­li­can who is one of Trump’s most loyal back­ers in Con­gress. He spoke shortly af­ter join­ing other sup­port­ive law­mak­ers for a meet­ing Thursday with Trump po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor Jim Mur­phy.

Collins said the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee un­der­stands the im­por­tance of pre­sent­ing “Pres­i­dent Trump to the Amer­i­can pub­lic.”

Trump has had more suc­cess stay­ing on mes­sage fol­low­ing an Au­gust cam­paign shakeup and he’s given in to his new se­nior team’s in­sis­tence that he stick to a more scripted mes­sage dur­ing cam­paign ral­lies. The de­bates will be the big­gest test of whether he can keep that up for 90 min­utes of live tele­vi­sion with his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent stand­ing just a few feet from him.

In an in­ter­view Thursday morn­ing on “Fox and Friends,” Trump said he would “stay cool” in the de­bate.

“I’m go­ing to be very re­spect­ful of her,” he said. “I think she de­serves that and I’m go­ing to be nice. And if she’s re­spect­ful of me, that’ll be nice.”

“I’m go­ing to be very re­spect­ful of her. I think she de­serves that and I’m go­ing to be nice. And if she’s re­spect­ful of me, that’ll be nice.” — Don­ald Trump

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.