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These are the debate ‘traps’ Republicans fear Trump may fall into

These are the debate ‘traps’ Republicans fear Trump may fall into

With just days to go before Donald Trump and Joe Biden face off in the first presidential debate, Republicans are concerned about the possibility of the former president walking into a trap in front of a national audience.

Fearing a repeat of the chaos of the first 2020 debate in which Trump kept interrupting and speaking over both Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, senior party figures are urging him to stay calm and follow the rules.

The issue is clearly on the former president’s mind too, as he asked supporters at a rally in Philadelphia on Saturday (June 22) whether he should be “tough and nasty” or “nice and calm” and let Biden speak.

He may not have a choice as debate rules state that when one candidate is responding to a question, the other’s microphone will be muted.

Nevertheless, Trump is being urged to tone things down for the CNN-hosted debate on June 27, The Hill reports.

Allies hope he can avoid alienating independent and swing voters with his trademark bombastic and confrontational rhetoric and demeanor. If he can resist launching into a tirade and stay on the rails, he could come out on top.

The president meanwhile has to telegraph a message of stability and competence while reminding voters of the turmoil of the Trump administration and warning about what might come in a second term.

Biden’s campaign frames Trump as “obsessed with the past, not the future” and “willing to sacrifice our democracy to put himself in power” versus their focus on building a future for the American people.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens during the second and final presidential debate in the 2020 election
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens during the second and final presidential debate in the 2020 election (REUTERS)

Indeed, that will likely sit squarely alongside the inescapable fact that the former president is now a convicted felon and is fighting three other indictments.

Speaking on Meet the Press on NBC on Sunday morning Biden campaign co-chair Mitch Landrieu said: “I’ll let the President say what he’s going to say. But the fact of the matter is that the sky is blue sometimes and Donald Trump is a convicted felon.”

Landrieu also said: “People are going to know that he’s a twice impeached convicted felon who has been found to have defamed somebody, sexually abused somebody and going bankrupt six times.”

It is hard to imagine that this will not raise the ire of the former president.

“Don’t take the bait,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota told The Hill. “Demeanor’s important, tone’s important. I think you can be decisive and strong, as he is, but I think in many ways you want to give President Biden as much rope as possible because I don’t think that probably is going to play well for him.”

“This is why you play them, right? The debates are going to be important as they always are,” he continued.

“If [Trump] comes in there and just shows strength and leadership but maintains a calm demeanor and lets Biden go, it goes well for him.”

This is the first time since televised debates began in 1960 that the first face-off has occurred before either party’s convention.

In going early in the election season, both candidates have an opportunity to get their message out to Americans who may not have yet engaged in the election. There is also a significant block of voters who are turned off by the advanced age of both candidates, so capability is key.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, once a fierce Trump critic and now one of his staunchest allies said: “The main focus is going to be: is Biden capable?”

Trump and Biden will square off in the first presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27, 2024
Trump and Biden will square off in the first presidential debate in Atlanta on June 27, 2024 (AP)

“If I were President Trump, I would talk about right track, wrong track,” he continued. “I don’t think he needs to be overly aggressive. Just make the case that if you think we’re on the wrong track, you’re right.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia observes: “I think they’re going to be looking for other cues in terms of: is President Biden capable of answering all the questions relevantly, and is President Trump within the rails?”

Veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “Mr Trump can’t come off as unhinged or enraged. The words ‘rigged election’ shouldn’t pass his lips. He has to keep his cool and can’t make it all about himself.”

NBC’s Peter Alexander also asked South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem whether Trump should avoid personal insults during the debate.

“I don’t think that he has to … get personal. … He’s going to have so many good things to talk about,” she said.

One potential Trump running mate, Senator JD Vance of Ohio, recognizes the importance of the debate but is confident that the former president can stick to a theme that appears to resonate with many voters.

“I think it’s going to be a good night, but it’s a very important night,” Vance said. “He just has to make his case to the American people. There’s a very clear contrast between how things were under him and how things were under Biden. He just, I think, has to hit that theme and that’s what we’ll do.”

The debate will be hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash in Atlanta on Thursday at 9pm est — there will be no studio audience and moderators will “use all tools at their disposal to enforce timing and ensure a civilized discussion”.

Both candidates agreed to accept the rules and format of the debate, as outlined in letters sent to the campaigns by the network in May.

The 90-minute debate will include two commercial breaks and campaign staff may not interact with their candidate during that time.

Both candidates agreed to appear at a uniform podium, with Trump to the left and Biden to the right as determined by a coin flip. Politifact has debunked an online rumor that the Biden team asked for the candidates to be seated.

Microphones will be muted throughout the debate except for the candidate whose turn it is to speak.

No props or pre-written notes will be allowed on the stage. Candidates will simply be given a pen, a pad of paper, and a bottle of water.

The Independent will be covering the debate live as well as the build-up and post-game analysis.


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