Trump in need of a game-changing moment as he meets Joe Biden for final debate
Desperate to change the current trajectory of the contest, Trump’s advisers have been begging him to take a less combative approach on Thursday than in the first debate when he created a virtually unwatchable event by repeatedly interrupting Biden and threading his remarks with personal attacks on the former vice president and his son, Hunter.
To avoid a repeat of that chaotic event, the Commission on Presidential Debates took the unprecedented step of changing the rules: the candidate’s microphones will be cut off while their opponent responds to the first question in each of six segments. The topics for the discussion, which will be led by moderator Kristen Welker, are “Fighting Covid-19,” “American Families,” “Race in America,” “Climate Change,” “National Security” and “Leadership.”
The two candidates were set to be separated by large plexiglass barriers at the Curb Event Center in Nashville. The barriers were originally recommended by medical advisers from The Cleveland Clinic, but it’s now unlikely the dividers will be used because circumstances have changed, according to commission senior adviser Peter Eyre. No further explanation was given and the dividers had been removed from the debate stage.
The second debate planned between the two men was canceled after Trump tested positive for coronavirus and refused to participate in a virtual debate.
Campaign advisers told CNN’s Jim Acosta they now believe it was a huge mistake for Trump to bail on last week’s scheduled debate, making a breakout moment a must on Thursday. One adviser said Trump needs a “leadership moment” at the debate as Biden is now seen as the front-runner heading into the final stretch of this campaign. Another adviser said if the President fails in his mission then the President could become increasingly desperate in the final days of this campaign.
Both men face difficult imperatives as they face an audience of tens of millions of people for the last time. Biden is trying to improve his margins with Hispanic voters, in part to shore up his numbers in the key states of Florida and Arizona at a time when he is performing worse with those voters than Clinton did.
Biden got an assist on Wednesday from former President Barack Obama, who hit the campaign trail in Philadelphia for him, delivering a scathing critique of Trump’s presidency and handling of the pandemic.
Mocking Trump’s diminished television ratings, a reference to last week’s dueling Biden and Trump town halls, Obama charged that the President has not taken the job seriously and hasn’t “showed any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends.”
Trump is struggling with female voters, who have increasingly gravitated to Biden. And he must also tighten his hold on one of his key constituencies, non-college educated White voters. Trump won those voters by 30 points in 2016, but he currently holds only a 19-point margin within that demographic, according to an analysis by CNN’s Harry Enten. Biden, who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has proven to be a more formidable adversary than Clinton when it comes to those voters — one of the reasons why he is faring better in Midwestern states than the 2016 Democratic nominee.
To bolster his standing, Trump’s advisers hope he will be laser-focused on the economy, an area where he has traditionally held a clear advantage over Biden. But Trump has shown little message discipline even in the closing days of this race.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
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