Having a member of the cult of personality on stage to ask softball questions while ignoring a time limit is not debate prep. But that is how Trump decided to do his debate prep. Trump had a “town hall” forum where the attendees were allowed to ask him 20 questions.
But the audience did not get to actually ask the questions. New England radio host Howie Carr, a huge Trump supporter, asked the questions. And Trump did not answer more than a dozen. He went off topic, he did not keep to a clock, and he laughed that there was no way Hillary was really doing intensive debate prep.
Surely he thinks that he will excel in a town hall style forum. Surely he thinks he will connect with voters through force of personality. But he is probably wrong at this point. It is hard to see how the Trump routine persuades new voters not already persuaded by his schtick.
On Thursday night, Howie Carr, a conservative radio host and Trump booster, played the role of moderator, and the crowd was hand-picked by his campaign. The audience didn’t even ask Trump their questions. Carr did so on their behalf. Before the event, Carr had said Trump would take 20 questions. He stayed for about a dozen.
And while Sunday’s debate will stretch for 90 minutes without a bathroom break, Trump bolted from his town hall in Sandown after barely more than one-third of that time.
Trump’s campaign did place a two-minute countdown clock in front of their candidate on Thursday. He repeatedly blew past that time limit anyway.
“I said forget debate prep. I mean, give me a break,” Trump said at one point. “Do you really think that Hillary Clinton is debate-prepping for three or four days. Hillary Clinton is resting, okay?”
It is again worth asking: if Trump wanted Hillary to win, what exactly would he be doing differently?