Inside the map room of the White House, a small group of advisers sat around a table and peppered the President with accusations and criticisms about everything from lying to incompetence. The team, led by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was getting Donald Trump prepared for the onslaught they expect from Joe Biden on the debate stage Tuesday night.
About 100 miles north in Wilmington, Delaware, a similar scene played out with Biden and his team, led by longtime Biden aide and debate expert Ron Klain. Biden’s prep has been more traditional — putting on mock debates with veteran Democratic attorney Bob Bauer playing the role of Trump in at least one session.
For two very different men with polar opposite temperaments and divergent governing philosophies, their debate objectives have some fundamental things in common: Put their opponent on the defense and make it as much a referendum on the other as possible. In conversations with multiple sources familiar with both candidates’ prep, each is practicing ways to get under the other’s skin, while also avoiding blowing up and going off script if the debate turns personal.
Advisers to both candidates are expecting one of the night’s biggest flash points to be about each man’s children.
CNN is told that Trump is preparing to go after Hunter Biden for getting lucrative jobs overseas when his father was vice president that he will say the younger Biden was not qualified for. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the former vice president and his son acted corruptly in Ukraine.
Their hope is that it knocks Biden off his game — either causing him to blow up or say something incorrect.
Biden’s team has been working with him to be ready for Trump to go after his son in a way he hasn’t had to deal with as directly before. Trump advisers have also spent time working with the President to stay calm if Biden retaliates by invoking Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, both White House aides with no previous government experience. A source familiar with Biden’s prep, however, says his plan is to pivot away from this issue, not engage.
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