Donald Trump and Joe Biden meet face-to-face at a distance Thursday in their final match-up in an already angry contest that the president has threatened to blow up even further by launching a series of attacks on the former vice president’s son.
Trump left the White House with First Lady Melania Trump shortly after midday for the flight to Nashville, TN, for the debate. It was the first time she has been seen since being diagnosed with coroanvirus after the first debate.
It is the final debate of the election – the previous one got scratched after Trump refused to take part in a ‘virtual’ format after getting the coronavirus – and represents an opportunity with dwindling time for the president to try to reset the race.
Trump hoped he could throw his rival off balance and demonstrate that his mind is ‘shot’ by repeatedly attacking and interrupting him during the first debate in Cleveland. But Biden ended up getting a slight bump in national polls taken afterward.
Now, the president has telegraphed he will accuse his rival of ‘corruption’ just like he has at his campaign rallies leading up to Thursday – and will not hold back from torching Hunter Biden after the release of emails that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani put out and said came from Hunter’s laptop.
Trump complained when town hall interviewer George Stephanopoulos didn’t bring up Hunter during his TV talk with Biden last week.
New changes imposed by the bipartisan debate commission will silence the opposite candidate’s microphone during opening statements, after widespread denunciations of the first encounter. But they will each be free to interject later in the debate.
Off to Nashville: Donald Trump left for the second debate with First Lady Melania, her first public outing since being diagnosed with COVID
Final showdown: Donald and Melania Trump board Air Force One for Nashville on their way to the second debate with Joe Biden
Good luck: White House staff were lined up on the South Lawn to cheer off the president and first lady on their way to Nashville. The usual practice of inviting outside guests has been canceled for the pandemic
Goodbye: Trump waves to White House staff as he prepares to take off on Marine One for Joint Base Andrews to transfer to Air Force One
On my way: Trump walked hand in hand with Melania on his way from Marine One to Air Force One
One person is masked: An Air Force officer escorting Donald Trump on board Air Force One was covered up – unlike the president and the first lady
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden face off in their final debate Thursday. Trump has said he will bring up Hunter Biden, and complained when town hall interviewer George Stephanopoulos didn’t bring him up
The president’s combative stance was on display with an interview he taped with CBS ’60 Minutes’ Sunday, where he complained to interviewer Lesley Stahl after she asked if he was ready for ‘tough questions.’
‘But you’re okay with some tough questions?’ she asked him.
‘No I’m not,’ he replied.
Trump has used prior debates for theater, following 2016 rival around the stage in 2016. Clinton said he ‘literally stalked me.’ Trump’s team also brought former Bill Clinton rape and sexual assault accusers to the debate in a play to get inside his opponents’ head.
This time, Trump says he’ll bring up Hunter Biden, after days of disclosures from Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Biden sent a signal of his own – blowing up at a reporter who asked him about the subject several days ago. On Wednesday, he teed off when a local Wisconsin reporter asked him about it in a TV interview. ”This is the same garbage Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s henchman, it’s a last-ditch effort in this desperate campaign to smear me and my family,’ Biden said.
Trump can also use the Hunter saga to point to China – a country he repeatedly accuses of bringing the ‘plague’ into the U.S. He named China as the nation’s top adversary on ’60 minutes.’
Most political observers agree the pressure is on Trump to get something out of the debate. Biden’s leads have been durable, and millions of his supporters have already voted. He also has an advertising advantage on air, with more money in the bank, after the Trump campaign blew through the more than $1 billion it raised since 2017.
BE PREPARED: Trump has already torn into moderator Kristen Welker
Trump was holding a fundraiser in Nashville just five hours before the debate is set to start.
Biden’s national lead is up to 8 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics Average. Analyst Charlie Cook suggests observers look to Senate races for the real ‘drama.’ A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday had the two men tied in Texas, 47-47.
Trump has softened up the ground by going after moderator Kristen Welker. But he is still likely to face follow up questions from the first debate and town hall about the coronavirus (with more than 1,200 U.S. deaths reported Wednesday alone), and his tax returns, which got leaked to the New York Times.
A Times follow-on report this week revealed Trump’s company had an undisclosed bank account in China.
Biden has struggled when pressed on whether he supports court packing, but may have found his answer in his 60 Minutes interview, saying he would appoint a bipartisan commission to study court reforms.