In what is either another remarkable blunder or a masterful bit of lowering expectations, on Thursday night in New Hampshire Donald Trump held a public practice session for his town-hall-style debate with Hillary Clinton this Sunday. While Trump usually sticks to large rallies, he took questions from a small crowd of his supporters in Sandown, New Hampshire. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is said to be helping with debate prep, watched from the side of the room, and a clock on the floor counted down to two minutes, the length of time the candidates will have to respond to questions during their second debate.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Trump insisted the event wasn’t part of his debate prep. “They were saying this is practice for Sunday. This isn’t practice,” Trump said. “We’re just here because we wanted to be here.”
Republicans should hope he was telling the truth, because the following things won’t – or at least shouldn’t – happen during Trump’s rematch with Clinton.
• The event was moderated by conservative radio host Howie Carr, a Trump supporter. He warmed up the crowd by saying, “We all love Trump, right?” Sunday’s debate will be moderated by Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, who have a reputation for asking tough questions.
• Carr asked Trump if he wanted him to point out when his two minutes were up, but he opted not to use the clock. “I tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. If I’m doing well, don’t call me,” he said. “If I’m answering the question poorly please call me immediately.”
• After the event, Carr published an op-ed in the Boston Herald in which he praised Trump for ignoring the clock. “I knew he wouldn’t stop. Like Ronald Reagan in Nashua in 1980, he paid for this microphone, Mr. Green,” he wrote.
• Trump said he would take 20 questions, but he only took about a dozen. The event lasted 30 minutes, while the debate will be 90 minutes with no break.
• As CNN notes, “Rather than working the room, Trump remained standing in the same spot, just a few feet from Carr who read off the questions Trump’s supporters had submitted.”
• Carr offered Trump words of encouragement while questioning him, and some people prefaced their questions by shouting things like, “Make America Great Again!” “I like this audience,” Trump said. “I like this audience.”
• Trump was asked softball questions, such as “What would you say to convince Hispanics who are deceived by Obama, Clinton, and the biased media to vote for you?” and “What is your favorite childhood memory? Go Donald.”
• He frequently went off on tangents and didn’t really answer the few specific policy questions he received.
• He complained that Clinton got easier questions in the first debate. “She gets easy ones,” he said. “By the way, have you noticed the difference? I’m getting boom, boom, boom. With her, ‘What would you do to fix the economy?’ Of course, that’s actually a much tougher question than you would understand, and she doesn’t have a clue, but you see the questions I was getting.”
•After insisting for more than a week that he had had a “bum mike” at the first presidential debate, Trump clarified that “it wasn’t that the mike didn’t work.” Rather, Trump explained, the problem was that saboteurs operating the soundboard kept “oscillating” the microphone’s volume as he spoke.
• He attacked journalists John King and John Harwood, as well as Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican who does not support him.
• He attacked Clinton, claiming that she is “resting” rather than doing debate prep. “She wants to build up her energy for Sunday night,” he said.
• He kicked things off by attacking the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, saying, “Give me a break. Did you
see where they came from, one of them comes from the Hillary camp, the
Here’s the full question-and-answer session: