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Some reporting is emerging this week on the state of the game -- the first hints on how each candidate is preparing for the three encounters. For reference, here are the dates and details of the three scheduled events. From the Commission on Presidential Debates' website: The second showdown sounds like it could be the most exciting. -- what I am wondering about in the run-up to the debates are three related things: how exactly does a candidate prepare for such debates, according to established practice? Will the preparation for the debates necessarily include a kind of 'debate school' for one or the other candidate? Does Mrs Clinton's experience in Presidential debates tend to outweigh that of Mr Trump in this cycle's GOP candidate debates? There is a bit of intelligence trickling in from 'insiders' and from each campaign. It looks like Hillary Clinton will be doing the regular, normal, expected kind of preparation, including digesting briefing books, rehearsing with a stand-in, and so on. Mr Trump, on the other hand, has been reported to be unconvinced that a full set of 'normal' preparations are needed. This excerpt from the Washington Post may or may not be true or indicative**: “Hillary Clinton is methodically preparing for the presidential debates as a veteran lawyer would approach her biggest trial. She pores over briefing books thick with policy arcana and opposition research. She internalizes tips from the most seasoned debate coaches in her party. And she rehearses, over and over again, to perfect the pacing and substance of her presentation.” “Donald Trump is taking a different approach. He summons his informal band of counselors — including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, talk-radio host Laura Ingraham and ousted Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes — to his New Jersey golf course for Sunday chats. Over bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs and glasses of Coca-Cola, they test out zingers and chew over ways to refine the Republican nominee’s pitch.” “Trump’s aides have put together briefing books, not that the candidate is devoting much time to reading them. Trump is not holding any mock debates, proudly boasting that a performer with his talents does not need that sort of prepping. Should Trump submit to traditional rehearsals, some associates are talking about casting Ingraham, an adversarial chronicler of Clinton scandals, to play the Democratic nominee.” -- there is a bit of nasty talk on this purported lack of debate prep, as can be expected. Here's a sample from Red State: The Post reports that Trump believes that he is so talented that he doesn’t need to prepare or study ahead of the debates. Instead, Trump plans to show up and overwhelm Clinton with “zingers” that are being written by the team of Rudy Giuliani, Roger Ailes, and Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s arrogance and laziness are well documented, but the train wreck that he is setting himself up for could take down the entire Republican Party. Trump is going to step on stage with the entire world watching, and wing a presidential debate. Donald Trump is going up against the most qualified person ever to run for the presidency, and he isn’t going to prepare or study. Debating Hillary Clinton is a whole other universe compared to squaring off against the 16 dwarves that Trump survived against in the GOP primary debates. During the Republican primary debates, Trump was able to stand back and let the chaos around him consume much of the airtime. In a fall presidential debate, all of the pressure and attention is going to be on him. There will be nowhere for Trump to hide, and the nation may get to watch an epic disaster unfold before their very eyes because Donald Trump is too lazy to study. This is a bit over-heated. Trump has never debated one-on-one (I don't think Johnson is going to make the cut). His campaign should obviously be cognizant of the difference between the GOP debates and the Final Two smackdowns. I think I will watch the very last of the GOP debates for an indication of Trump's debate style -- and how it might effectively counter the wonkier efforts of Clinton. Highlights of that outing ... A few things I bear in mind heading into the preparation for the first debate between the top two candidates: presidential debates rarely if ever do more than 'nudge' voting intentions, according to some critical analyses. For example, this article was published before the Obama/Romney debates -- "Do Presidential Debates Really Matter? Remember all the famous moments in past debates that changed the outcome of those elections? Well, they didn’t." I bear in mind these cautions, but I also bear in mind that Trump is not like any other candidate. He may believe he simply does not need to 'evenly match' his preparation work with that of Clinton. Could that make a difference? Maybe a hypothesis is in order: the 'state of the race' will not be determined by the debates to any appreciable degree. There will be no sharp or sudden movement represented in the polls showing voter intention. There will be marginal effects. That general hypothesis will be tested against reality. Any other hypotheses from our OL regulars? ____________________________ ** from The Hill: Donald Trump and a team of informal campaign advisers will meet at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Sunday to prepare for his first debate against Hillary Clinton on Sept. 26. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, acknowledged that the GOP nominee will not be taking the same conventional approach as his opponent, Hillary Clinton, by pouring over thick briefing books. Instead, he prefers getting ready for his first head-to-lead live encounter with Clinton by testing lines with a group of confidantes, They will gather over lunch at the golf club Sunday to plot strategy, Conway confirmed during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “I’ll be at lunch at Bedminster, and I’m sure we’ll have a lively conversation,” she said. “Look, he’s an unconventional candidate, and he’s not going to prepare the way Hillary does, which is, you know, locking her[self] in a room and crammed [sic] her head with all those binders.”
At this point in the American presidential election cycle, Trump supporters should be excited -- not despite the challenges, but because of the challenges. Their candidate is an assertive, even aggressive personality, a fighter. What does a fighter relish if not challenging, high risk/high reward situations? Imagine you have been summoned to Trump Tower. Can you make 'contact' and a persuasive argument that some of these challenges are central, some peripheral, some not even challenges at all? Electoral College arithmetic / Swing-state uncertainties Raising and spending money Hostile and adversarial media environment National campaign strategy and tactics "Unfavorable" opinion / Demographic change since 2012 'Lack' of conventional campaign superstructure Coordination with GOP campaign Wavering support from GOP / Unity at the Cleveland Convention "Incoherent:" policy proposals Bias, prejudice, "political correctness,: conventional wisdom I will flesh the list out in separate comments. What have I missed, what have I split, what else do you think are the top challenges for the Trump campaign? (I have re-ranked the Top Ten list, in light of feedback from members. We now have one Trump supporter in the mix!)