I guess he noticed that New York Times story yesterday, huh? I don’t blame him for being annoyed that his advisors are telling the media that he needs to prepare more diligently, even if they’re going that route only because they fear he won’t absorb their advice if they tell him that privately. But that’s the question: Does Trump agree that he needs to prepare more? In other words, is he mad that his team is whispering to reporters about things that should stay in-house or is he mad because he really doesn’t believe he needs to do anything differently next week?
Team Trump denies that any of this happened, of course:
In a conference call with surrogates Wednesday afternoon, Trump aides made clear the Republican nominee is upset that his allies publicly acknowledged they pushed him to change his preparation and tactics before his next bout with Hillary Clinton. And he wants them to stop it immediately…
Trump wants his supporters to make an energetic defense of his performance and refuse to concede that he didn’t nail it…
Aides and advisers hoped Trump’s refusal to participate in traditional debate preparation sessions — instead favoring the impromptu, off-the-cuff approach that helped him through the GOP primaries — might be eased after Monday night.
One ally described Trump as the kind of guy who can’t simply be told a stove is hot — he has to touch it to see for himself.
Most of the president’s job, especially on foreign policy, involves being told by trusted aides which stoves are and aren’t too hot to touch. If President Trump’s going to insist on touching all of them to find out for himself, hoo boy.
His campaign staff has, allegedly, delivered the message “gingerly” that he needs to be more disciplined next time, but there’s an interesting argument internally over that. One source claims that his advisors keep telling him that “letting Trump be Trump” won’t bring in new voters. The new, more disciplined Trump 2.0 was built to convince white college grads who have been skittish about him to give him a second look, and it seems to be working. If he’s back to Trump 1.0 at the debates, those voters might write him off entirely and then he’s stuck at 40-42 percent nationally without an obvious way to build on it. Trump’s counter, though, according to CNN’s source is that “his approach is what his base likes” — which is true, and which would be a better play at this point if Team Trump concludes that he’s done about as much as he can to persuade persuadables that he’s presidential timber. He might be better off going Full Metal Trump for the last month and seeing if it inspires his white working-class base to turn out in record numbers.
Playing for swing voters seems like the wiser course between the two since it’d be relatively easy for Trump to behave “presidentially” over the next two debates — study hard, don’t get baited, stick to your message that Clinton’s the status quo personified — and very hard to turn out millions of extra downscale white voters, especially without much of a ground game. Also, if Trump is all about pleasing his base then what was the point of the brief “softening” on immigration and the outreach to minority voters this past month? He would have been better off in white neighborhoods pounding the table about mass deportation. He wants to be the populist Mr Hyde but his campaign keeps shoving him towards being a more traditional Dr Jekyll, which is why you get these odd fluctuations in which audience he seems to be pandering to at any given time.
His post-debate numbers are holding steady in the LA Times tracking poll, by the way. There’s been no bounce for Hillary in that survey yet. YouGov, however, sees something positive for Clinton and negative for Trump:
Any question in any poll that involves better numbers for her than for him among Republicans is a problem. YouGov also asked all voters if the debate improved or worsened their opinion of each candidate. Clinton split 41/36; Trump split … 29/47, with 20 percent of his own party saying their opinion of him worsened versus just six percent of Democrats who said that about Clinton. That’s why his team is leaning on him to buckle down for the next one. Another bad debate might cement the impression that Trump isn’t up to the job, assuming the first one hasn’t already.
Exit quotation from the man himself: “I’m winning all of these [online] polls, hundred of thousand of votes… I have to sit back and you have to sit back and hear these polls don’t mean anything.”