MSNBC’s Chris Hayes says he was joking about a Trump advisor telling him “We're almost 100% sure he's gonna just drop trow and moon Hillary. We're terrified." Still, it’s probably what people are thinking about as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gear up for their first debate later this evening. Yet, all kidding aside, both camps seem to have prepared heavily for this showdown. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s new campaign manager, has been a godsend to the campaign, which struggled post-Cleveland. It seems that Conway has professionalized the campaign, kept it focused, and as a result—lead to Trump surging in the polls.
Trump has reportedly been speaking with his closest advisers, while Clinton has been doing the same, though she’s said that she will make the case tonight that Mr. Trump is “temperamentally unfit” to serve as president of the United States (via The Hill):
He’s spent the preparations with his close advisers, including campaign CEO and former Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. Key confidantes and surrogates such as Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, as well as advisers Stephen Miller, Jason Miller and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have also taken part.
Former Fox News chief Roger Ailes is also advising Trump on the debates and sending him memos but has skipped the last two debate sessions, according to the Times.
On the other side of the aisle, Clinton is reportedly throwing herself into debate prep, scripting out answers with her team and holding at least one mock debate.
She’s also mindful of Trump’s unpredictability — as The Hill reported this week, she’s preparing for whatever persona Trump may throw her way, including aggressive or below-the-belt attacks.
Clinton reportedly won’t be satisfied calling out Trump for stretching the truth. She wants to prosecute the case that he’s temperamentally unfit for office and unhinged, two key campaign messages.
Also, both camps have delved into the psychological profiles of each other. On Team Trump, they’ve allegedly built an extensive profile on the former first lady, noting Clinton’s gestures, body language, and key phrases she uses when she doesn’t know the answer, indicators Trump can use to rapidly pivot or attack her. Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, simply responded to these developments flippantly, saying “good luck” (via Politico):
The “psychological profile,” as the analysis is being called, is based on a statistical analysis of videos from 16 years' worth of Clinton’s debates, dating back to her 2000 campaign for Senate in New York, according to the operatives. They said it was assembled with assistance from a political data firm called Cambridge Analytica that specializes in “psychographic” modeling of voters and donors, and that Trump’s top advisers have been pleased with the results.
The advisers believe that the profile proves that Clinton has significant weaknesses and that they have identified her ‘tells’ — words, phrases or gestures she uses when she’s unsure of an answer, or is trying to deflect her way out of an uncomfortable question, according to the operatives familiar with the preparations.
For example, according to one of the sources, an operative who works with the campaign, Trump’s debate prep team believes that the profile proves that when "she doesn't know the answer, she says this, etc.” The goal, said the operative, is to get Trump to recognize the tendencies, “so when he hears her say 'X' he knows what is going on, and can respond accordingly.”
Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri suggested her campaign wasn’t much worried about the Trump team’s psychological analysis of Clinton. “Good luck,” she said Friday when she was asked about this story during a pre-debate media conference call. “We all have seen [Clinton] endure a lot of tough questioning over the years. We saw her endure 11 hours of tough questioning at the Benghazi hearing. And Donald Trump may think he’s the person who’s going to be able to really get under her skin, but I doubt it.”
Clinton has done the same, speaking with a series of advisers for hours to create a profile of the Republican nominee (via WaPo):
As Hillary Clinton prepared to face the most unconventional candidate of her political career on the debate stage Monday night, her campaign aides engaged in a deep study of Donald Trump's personality to glean insights into how he might act, according to several people familiar with the process.
At a working group session in August, Clinton advisers met with a small group hand-picked by the campaign to help shed light on the Republican nominee. The focus on Trump's personality suggests that Clinton's approach on Monday may be quite different from her strategy in past debates -- and that her campaign expects this event to be unlike any other.
The aides involved in debate prep including her longtime aide Philippe Reines, who has played Trump in mock debate sessions. They conferred for hours with campaign outsiders who were asked to offer advice about Trump’s personality and temperament, according to people familiar with the meeting. The meeting lasted several hours.
This is it, folks. It’s apparent that ads aren’t going to allow Clinton gain the edge over Trump; she’s heavily outspent him concerning media buys in key swing states, to no avail. The Democratic blue wall is in a fragile state, with Clinton mulling pulling out of Ohio. Guy noted it’s a rather explicit 180-degree turn from the Clinton campaign, which not so long ago was boasting about her commanding lead in the Electoral College. The debates are that last forum, where both heavily unpopular candidates could gain traction over the other. In some ways, it’s both Clinton and Trump’s debate to lose, Trump could torpedo his surge with voters, while Clinton needs to be successful in portraying the real estate magnate as unfit—and trying to bring those disaffected Democrats who have left for third party candidates back into the Clinton camp. Clinton might also try to hit Trump on his past statement that have turned out to be inaccurate, which might be a double-edged sword since Clinton has lied about her emails, which has proven to be one of the Achilles’ heel for her campaign that could be re-litigated in front of 100 million people.