Trump relies on friends and family to rehearse for key presidential debate

Republican candidate scorns rehearsals for event that is his chance to catch up with Clinton in polls

Published: 29th August 2016 08:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2016 08:04 AM   |  A+A-

WHILE Hillary Clinton pores over briefing books and rehearses attack lines, Donald Trump is preparing for his first presidential debate against her by talking to friends over golf.

Candidates locked in the race to the White House traditionally begin preparing months in advance for what is often the most important of prime-time debuts before the election.

But with less than a month to go, the Republican candidate has shown little interest in mock debates, on the basis that he already knows "the issues".

Instead of forming an official debate team - as is customary - Mr Trump's strategy is being shaped by friends and family members.

Chief among his informal group of advisers is Roger Ailes, the former chairman of Fox News Channel, who was forced to resign amid allegations that he sexually harassed employees. For the past two weekends Mr Trump has met Mr Ailes, Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor, Ivanka Trump, the Republican nominee's daughter, and a collection of others at the Trump National Golf Club.

The group suggest verbal salvoes that he can use against Mrs Clinton, whilst chomping on bacon cheeseburgers and hot dogs, The Washington Post reported.

It emerged yesterday (Sunday) that Mrs Clinton is struggling to find a sparring partner who can mimic Mr Trump in mock debates. Robby Mook, her campaign manager, said the search was proving "very hard".

Earlier this summer, Mr Trump flippantly said in a radio interview that he didn't need to spend time learning about topics that could come up - anything from health care to defence.

"I do know the issues, I actually know the issues much better than people understand that I know the issues," he said. "But I want to, obviously I will be practising. But I don't want to put so much practice in that all of a sudden you're not who you are."

Since announcing his bid for the presidency, Mr Trump has bucked almost every law and convention of a traditional electoral race. He has shunned script writers, preferring instead to scrawl a few notes on the back of a piece of paper en route to a speech.

In primary debates against his Republican rivals, Mr Trump won by being the schoolyard bully. His appearances were low on policy detail but littered with cutting nicknames for his opponents - "Lying Ted", "low-energy Jeb" - that ultimately destroyed them.

Mr Trump has indicated he will use this no-holds-barred approach against Mrs Clinton at the debate next month.

Perhaps Mrs Clinton's biggest challenge is her inability to relax in public. Famously prepared for every event, she can come across as too well rehearsed. She is going to have to use the debates to address the problem that, polls show, voters believe she is not trustworthy.

Seeking to manage expectations, Brian Fallon, her press secretary, said this week that Mr Trump's "showmanship as an ex-TV star" make him "a formidable debate foe".

Mr Trump lags behind Mrs Clinton in all the polls, and the debate could prove to be the only chance he has of putting his campaign back on a winning path.


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