Trump campaign seeks to reset debate expectations for Biden

Former President Trump last week in Wisconsin called President Biden “weak, failed and incompetent” and said he “doesn’t have a clue.”

In Philadelphia on Saturday, Trump called Biden the “worst president in the history of our country” and suggested he was spending several days at Camp David “sleeping … because they want to get him good and strong.”

On Tuesday, following weeks of the former president dismissing Biden as feeble, frail and clueless, Trump’s top campaign advisers sought to recast Biden as a capable debater who will be ready for Thursday’s showdown with Trump.

“We believe that many in the media are already prepared to give Joe Biden a participation trophy if he can simply stand upright for 90 minutes,” senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller told reporters. “When really what this should be about on Thursday is who has the vision for the future for America, and how candidates are able to do with defending their record.”

Miller told reporters that Biden “has been doing this successfully for 50 years.”

He highlighted flattering headlines about Biden from his 2008 vice presidential debate with Sarah Palin, his 2012 vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan and his State of the Union address earlier this year.

“We know that Joe Biden — after taking an entire week off, he’s going to be ready for this,” Miller said. “I don’t know if it’s quite going to be at the level of Steve Rogers walking in and turning into Captain America, but his team is going to have him ready just as they have in 2008, 2012, 2024.”

Republicans have warned Trump and his team against setting a low bar for Biden ahead of Thursday’s debate, which will be hosted by CNN. Strategists and lawmakers have encouraged Trump to acknowledge Biden is a strong debater ahead of time and to focus on issues such as inflation or immigration.

Instead, Trump has fluctuated between claims that Biden is weak and incompetent, and preemptively trying to create a narrative that if Biden does well, it’s because he had the help of a mystery substance.

Trump on Monday reiterated his call for Biden to take a drug test before Thursday’s showdown, adding he would agree to take one as well.

Asked on Tuesday’s call with reporters if it was a mistake to spend months telling the public Biden can’t put two sentences together, senior Trump adviser Chris LaCivita suggested Biden would be “filled with Adderall like he was the night of the State of the Union.”

Miller argued it could simultaneously be true that Biden stumbles over his words and appears lost during day-to-day appearances but has strong showings during major events like debates and State of the Union addresses.

Miller also suggested Trump could be up against the moderators Thursday night, further trying to set expectations that a poor performance would not be the former president’s fault. Dana Bash and Jake Tapper of CNN are set to moderate the event.

“If he’s allowed to communicate his vision for the country against Joe Biden’s failures without the blatant interference of CNN or the two moderators, then it will be very clear to everybody watching that President Trump is the clear choice who should be reelected to the White House this November,” Miller said.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.