WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top campaign advisers said Sunday they expect the president will strike a less combative tone at Thursday’s presidential debate after facing criticism for his performance at last month’s debate against Democrat Joe Biden.
"When you talk about style and you talk about approach, I do think that President Trump is going to give Joe Biden a little bit more room to explain himself on some of these issues," said Trump 2020 senior adviser Jason Miller during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
Trump received low marks in post-debate polls and focus groups after the first presidential debate on Sept. 30. The president routinely interrupted Biden and took personal shots at the former vice president during the chaotic 90-minute debate.
Economist Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign adviser, appearing on "The Cats Roundtable" a radio show hosted by New York City retail magnate John Catsimatidis, said the president has to focus on touting his economic policies at the debate, which will be held in Nashville.
"Trump has to be on his best behavior and lay out to the American people the amazing things he’s done for American workers and businesses," Moore said.
Though national polls and battleground state polls show Biden leading Trump, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a Biden campaign surrogate, said the campaign recognized "it is still possible for President Trump to win reelection," and was focused on get-out-the-vote efforts.
Asked on CNN’s "State of the Union" about Biden’s light campaign schedule compared with that of Trump, who held rallies in three battleground states over the weekend, Coons said Biden was adhering to social distancing guidelines by not holding crowded events.
"President Trump is campaigning in an unsafe way that doesn't follow the directions of public health experts," Coons said. "Joe Biden has continued to be engaged and effective in laying out a clear plan for how he's going to get us out of this pandemic and the recession."
Also Sunday, Trump campaign officials defended the president taking aim at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a Saturday campaign rally held days after the FBI arrested six men on charges of plotting to kidnap the Democrat.
Chants of "lock her up!" broke out at the Muskegon, Michigan, rally after Trump urged the crowd: "You gotta get your governor to open up your state, OK?"
Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and senior campaign adviser, told CNN’s "State of the Union" the president "wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all. He was having fun at a Trump rally."
Lara Trump noted that her family has also been on the receiving end of threats and vitriolic social media posts.
Miller, appearing on Fox, said the chants underscored that "people in Michigan want to get their state opened back up."
Whitmer, appearing on NBC’s "Meet the Press" said the president was "inciting" domestic terrorism.
"It's incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial, and execute me — 10 days after that was uncovered — the president is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism," Whitmer said. "It is wrong. It's got to end. It is dangerous, not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans."
Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez, appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation" said Trump brought up Whitmer at his rally to distract attention from his federal response to the raging pandemic.
"People understand this president has no plan," Perez said "His closing argument in Michigan is ‘lock her up.’ He's fanning the flames of division. He doesn't have a plan for the coronavirus. He doesn't have a plan for the economy. He's divisive."