- Mike Nudelman/Business Insider
HEMPSTEAD, New York – Top surrogates for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton outlined what they expect at Monday night’s titanic debate in interviews with Business Insider earlier in the afternoon.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said her campaign has prepared “for both” potential versions of Trump showing up – the combative and the docile versions of the Manhattan billionaire.
“I think in recent days, it seems like the smart money is that he’s going to come in and, it seems like the advice he’s getting from Roger Ailes and [campaign manager] Kellyanne Conway is to do his best to try and cultivate a presidential-seeming image to try and counteract the effect of the last 18 months, where he’s seen the results of that approach with his very high unfavorable rating,” Fallon told Business Insider. “And, clearly, I don’t think you can undo 18 months in 90 minutes, but they’re probably going to try.”
“For us, that means in the extended back-and-forth, the format of the debate calls for as much as 10 minutes of back-and-forth discussion, and I think that he was able in the primary debates to sort of shrink back into the background and pick his spots because it was a very crowded debate stage, but here he will have nowhere to go, and it will just be the two of them.
“And in those 10-minute lengthy discussions, he will have had to come here knowledgeable to speak for the issues, or will he revert to his lies. I think that will stand out more than whatever gracious note he will try to sound in the early going of the debate.”
Asked about the difficulty of preparing for an opponent for whom there is little game footage – the version of Trump that is much more subdued – Fallon brushed it off, adding it wouldn’t affect Clinton’s game plan.
“No matter which Donald Trump came to the debate tonight, our top priority is to talk affirmatively and positively about what she wants to do,” he said. “Everybody else is asking the question of how do you deal with Donald Trump, but she views the debate as an opportunity to speak in an unfiltered way to 90 or 100 million people and basically communicate her core message unfiltered and on television.”
“That doesn’t happen often where you get the opportunity to have a sort of unfiltered chance to speak to the American people, because it doesn’t carry the day in the back-and-forth of the campaign,” he continued. “So she will talk about her values, why she’s running, what she wants to do about the economy, what she will do to keep the country safe. That’s probably our first, second, and third objective before anything comes into the picture about how to deal with contrasting her record with Trump’s.”
He added that would be her focus “regardless” of how Trump approaches the night.
“But then even if Trump comes in and he intends to throw people for a curve by trying to seem restrained and composed, again, I think the true test will be whether he can sustain a conversation about what to do about ISIS or how to deal with stagnant wages,” Fallon said. “He’ll have to sustain a 10-minute conversation. It will be hard to hide in those moments.”
Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, a Trump surrogate, said Trump’s plan for a positive night has to include calling out what he believes to be the failures of the Democratic Party for people who feel disenfranchised by the political system.
He also added that the potentially more subdued Trump is simply a product of a candidate becoming more familiar with national politics.
“Trump’s growing into being a candidate,” Perdue said. “I can relate to this as an outsider. I’d never run for anything. He’d never run for anything. So it’s an evolution.”
“And I think when he got to the convention of the Republican Party, he was much more measured that night, he was scripted, and he did a fabulous job of speaking to America about his vision for the future,” he continued. “I know this guy’s heart – he’s doing this for the right reason. He doesn’t have to do this. And his theory is this: If we want different results in Washington, we have to send different people there. He’s going to do that tonight. I think we will see a continuing evolution of his demeanor like we saw at the Republican convention.”
He said he “fully expects” to see Trump display the “stark contrast” between himself and the former secretary of state.
“I’ve never seen a presidential race that showed two diametrically opposed visions for the country,” Perdue said. “And I think what we’ve got here is a candidate in Hillary Clinton who’s been in the political bubble, the political establishment, for 30 years, and on the other side, Trump is an outsider. He’s the guy calling to camp all the insiders who are responsible for this economic catastrophe we’re in right now.”
“I think Trump wins this election by continuing to do what he’s been doing and speak to the people who’ve been disenfranchised in this political process, the outside people,” he later added. “That’s how I got elected, frankly, by the people who were not part of the Democratic or Republican Party, but wanted to see change, real change.”