One would be hard-pressed to find a reputable outlet or pundit that claims Trump won Monday night’s debate against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Trump was backed into numerous political and rhetorical corners, as he was forced to defend racist practices within his business history, his support for the Iraq War, misogynistic comments made both on and off the campaign trail, and a general dearth of policy knowledge. His opponent, however, appeared ready for just about anything Trump or the moderator could have proposed or asked. She took substantial time away from campaigning to review policy briefings, consult experts, and participate in mock debates to prepare for the first of three highly anticipated showdowns. The stark contrast between Trump’s performance and that of Mrs. Clinton led many to ask: how in the world could a major presidential candidate be so unprepared?
According to advisors close to the Trump campaign, it was Trump’s decision to be unprepared. The New York Times finds that “there were early efforts to run a more standard form of general election debate-prep camp,” however Trump was reluctant to engage. “Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings, according to multiple people briefed on the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That left Mr. Ailes … discussing his own problems as well as recounting political war stories, according to two people present for the sessions.”
Even when Trump supporter and confidante Rudy Giuliani took over the debate preparation process, Trump was receiving a cornucopia of varied advice and was thus unable to internalize or process much of anything, leaving the candidate sorely unprepared for the debate.
One political advisor noted Trump’s short attention span and absence of stamina as a major factor in his poor performance. “It clearly looked like he ran out of gas after 30 minutes, and that came through loud and clear.” Of course, with adequate preparation, a candidate would not suffer such exhaustion – just as one who properly prepares for a marathon is better suited to run the race than is someone with minimal preparation.
While Trump has claimed that he performed very well in the debate, hardly anyone would agree. As such, it seems inevitable that his team will be more ready for the next forum on October 9. The New York Times reports that there are major disagreements within the campaign as to how to best prepare the candidate for his next debate performance. “Some of the advisers want to practice getting under his skin, as Mrs. Clinton did, to gauge his response.” “Others wanted practice sessions built around the next debate’s format, a town-hall-style meeting, where Mr. Trump is likely to engage with undecided voters asking him questions and, at times, move from his chair to walk the stage.” “Several advisers also want to impress upon him the need to stick to a strategy and a plan of battle against a female candidate.”
The list proceeds. However, even as there are numerous solutions available to Trump’s debate dilemma, one thing remains certain: another performance as poor as the one he delivered Monday will force more undecided voters to reject the Republican candidate entirely, drastically shifting that key bloc of voters toward the Democratic ticket.
Given Trump’s unwillingness to prepare for the debate, do you believe he even wants to win the election at this point? Will he be better prepared for the next debate?