President Donald Trump has not held a single debate practice session, nor plans to do so, with his first showdown with Joe Biden less than three weeks away.
And he’s told staff that he’s not worried because Biden is likely to make a gaffe or stutter – the Democratic nominee had a severe stutter as a child that he overcame.
But aides are worried, NBC News reported, that the president’s overconfidence could back fire when the two candidates meet on September 29 in Cleveland for their first debate, resulting in a Trump defeat on stage.
President Donald Trump has not held a single debate practice session, nor plans to do so, ahead of his first debate with Joe Biden
Joe Biden has said he will attend all three presidential debates as the Trump campaign has tried to say he will not show up
It’s happened to other commanders-in-chief.
An overly confident President Barack Obama flubbed his first presidential debate against GOP candidate Mitt Romney in their first debate during the 2012 election. But he knuckled down in debate prep ahead of their next two meetings, which were seen as Obama victories on stage.
Trump is doing some informal prep work through talking with allies and being briefed from administration officials on topics that are likely to come up.
But he’s not doing a traditional debate practice where someone plays the Democratic nominee and staff moderate an actual mock debate.
‘It’s not the traditional, ‘we need Chris Christie to fill in and play Hillary Clinton’ like we did four years ago,’ one of the president’s allies told NBC News.
For all the lack of prep, Trump and his campaign tried to add a fourth debate to this year’s schedule, citing early voting being used by voters sending in mail-in ballots.
But their request was rejected by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan group that runs the debates.
The president has also accused Biden of being afraid to debate him. Biden has said he will attend all three presidential debates: the second is October 15 in Miami and the final one is October 22 in Nashville.
The showdowns will take on additional importance this year when the coronavirus pandemic has upended traditional campaigning.
The debates will give viewers – who have been trapped at home for months – a chance to compare and contrast the candidates.
Trump largely eschewed traditional debate prep in 2016, when he ran against Hillary Clinton. He didn’t use a lectern when practicing and preferred to toss around ideas with his aides as opposed to whittling them down to a two-minute soundbite.
And the most memorable debate moments didn’t involve words: he loomed behind Clinton when she answered questions during the second presidential debate, which Clinton later said made her skin crawl.
This year, the president has held debate discussions while flying on Air Force One or sitting at his desk in the Oval Office. He met with Christie last month at his Bedminister golf club to discuss tactics.
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller have also been involved.
But, as one adviser told NBC, ‘He’s not standing at the podium’ in those instances, and no one is playing Biden.
Stepien has portrayed Biden as the real threat, calling the long time senator a seasoned debater.
‘Joe Biden is not formidable anywhere else but he is formidable on the debate stage,’ he said.
The most memorable debate moment from 2016 didn’t involve words but was when President Trump lingered behind Hillary Clinton as she answered questions in their second debate
In 2012, an overly confident President Barack Obama stumbled in his first debate against GOP nominee Mitt Romney in Denver
Trump does get into plenty of back-and-forths, notably in his press briefings, which have increased in frequency.
On Monday, he challenged one reporter to remove his face mask – the reporter did not – and has taken to pushing back to journalists’ inquiries with questions of his own.
Biden, in his vice presidential debates, took time to do a traditional debate prep, which he is expected to do again this year.
‘I’m looking forward to debating the president and I’m going to lay out as clearly as I can what I think we have to do to bring this country back and build back better,’ Biden said last week.