Both Sides Agree: Trump Will Be Unpredictable in Presidential Debates

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Why Carville Won’t Be Playing Trump in Debate Prep
  • Top aide doesn’t confirm there will be a practice run
  • Former Obama adviser Plouffe: Trump meets psychopath test

Two presidential campaigns that have been busy slinging mud at each other for much of the last week agree on one thing: Republican Donald Trump will continue to shoot from the hip when the candidates meet on a debate stage.

The first of three proposed debates between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton is almost a month away, on Sept. 26. It promises to be one of the signature moments in the long campaign for the Oval Office.

“He’s an unconventional candidate, and he’s not going to prepare the way Hillary does, which is, you know, lock her in a room and cram her head with all these binders,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The authentic Donald Trump, who’s been taking his case directly to the voters, is the one that you will see on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton, and I think they’re nervous over in the Clinton camp,” Conway said.

Conway wouldn’t say if Trump would definitely hold mock debates and if so, who would stand in for Clinton. NBC News reported that former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and conservative commentator Laura Ingraham were doing debate preparation with Trump.

Which Trump?

David Plouffe, a Clinton supporter and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, agreed with the assessment of the Trump’s strength ahead of the first contest, to be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

“It is going to be difficult, because you are going to have to prepare for many different Trumps,” Plouffe, who has been in touch with the Clinton campaign, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The candidate who shows up on debate night could be “modest” or “off-the-rails,” he said.

“We have a psychopath running for president,” Plouffe said. “I mean, he meets the clinical definition.” When challenged by NBC moderator Chuck Todd, Plouffe listed among Trump’s traits “the grandiose notion of self-worth, pathological lying, lack of empathy and remorse.”

Plouffe was responding to a question about who would play Trump in Clinton’s debate prep -- a question the campaign is said to be having trouble resolving because of Trump’s hard-edged style and tactical fluidity. Even one of the Democrat’s own campaign spokesmen suggested on Saturday that Trump’s beguiling nature could help him.

‘Formidable’ Foe

“For all his lack of substance, Trump’s showmanship, as ex-TV star, makes him a formidable debate foe,” the spokesman, Brian Fallon, wrote on Twitter. “He thrashed his rivals in GOP debates.”

For all the insults and and denigration of a political campaign, complimenting one’s opponent before a debate has become something of a standard practice.

Candidates’ performances are often judged on the perception that they exceeded or fell short of expectations, so self-deprecation can be wise messaging. The campaigns for both Obama and Mitt Romney heaped praise on their respective rivals in 2012, and Romney, who was often parodied as awkward and gaffe-prone by comparison to an oratorically gifted president, saw a polling bump from a strong debate.

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he was “cracking the books” in anticipation of meeting with Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, for the vice presidential debate.

That contest is scheduled for for Oct. 4, according to the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. Assuming the candidates agree to participate, two more presidential debates would follow, on Oct. 9 and Oct. 19.

Still hoping to qualify for the debates is Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, who needs to secure 15 percent support in five national polls and is currently showing an average of 8.1 percent.

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