Hours before the second and final debate between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Trump, it was pretty clear that the president would press the accelerator at the face-off in Nashville, Tenn., over the latest controversy surrounding the former vice president’s son Hunter.
But Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield predicted that such attacks would backfire on the president.
“We expect that Trump will attack Biden and his family. And every time he does that, all he’s doing is reinforcing what we have said all along. He is acknowledging that he has no case for a second term,” Bedingfield charged. “These attacks are backfiring on Trump.”
At the first debate, Trump repeatedly spotlighted the controversies surrounding Hunter Biden. The president zeroed in on the younger Biden’s acknowledged past drug use. But Trump’s attacks may have fallen flat after the former vice president declared that he was proud of his son – who along with millions of other Americans – had battled to overcome an addiction.
But the president may feel like he has more ammunition to fire in this final debate – courtesy of a controversial report in the New York Post.
The president, his reelection campaign and surrogates, have repeatedly spotlighted the report to claim that Biden’s actions as vice president during President Obama’s administration were influenced by his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. The Trump campaign launched a new ad targeting Biden over the story and on Sunday night the president charged that “as far as I'm concerned, the Biden family is a criminal enterprise.
The Biden campaign and allies have blasted the report as a “smear campaign” and point to the recent GOP-led Senate investigation that found no evidence of wrongdoing on the then-vice president’s part with regard to Ukraine.
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller on Monday made it clear that if the debate’s moderate – NBC News’s Kristen Welker – doesn’t bring up the controversy, the president will. "If Kristen Welker, the moderator, doesn't bring it up, I think you're pretty safe to assume that the president will," Miller said on "Mornings with Maria." "Again, these are real simple questions."
And White House director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah predicted on Fox Business that “whether it’s asked or he has the opportunity to bring it up, he’s going to get into this issue of Hunter Biden. The American people need to know if the Biden family in any way is beholden to China.”
Fox News political analyst Karl Rove emphasized that it would be more effective for the president to focus on the economy as opposed to the Hunter Biden “scandal.”
Rove, who served as the top political adviser to President George W. Bush in the White House and on Bush’s two presidential election victories, claimed “we do know that Hunter Biden is a bad actor” and allegedly “used his father to make money with [Ukrainian energy firm] Burisma."
But in an appearance on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” Rove argued that “I just don't think that in the last 13 days it's as effective to talk about this than it is to talk about how Joe Biden is going to raise your taxes, diminish your savings, slow down the economy, attack our energy independence, raise your utility bill, all the stuff that Trump could spend the time between now and the election talking about.”
The first debate late last month in Cleveland, Ohio was a chaotic clash. The showdown was plagued by incessant interruptions and insults, with most of them initiated by the president. According to a Fox News analysis, the president interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" a total of 145 times, with the former vice president interrupting Trump and Wallace 67 times.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) – the bipartisan group that’s been organizing and running these faceoffs for more than three decades – announced this week that they’d use a mute button to prevent the candidates from interrupting each other during their initial two minute responses at the top of each of the six 15-minute segments.
In an interview Tuesday morning on “Fox & Friends,” the president said he “may” change his strategy and cut back on the interruptions, but he was far from definitive.
“They said if you let him talk, he’ll lose his chain of thought because he’s gonzo,” Trump said as he referred to Biden. “And I understand that. But I also understand that as he’s going down the line and issuing lies, you know, generally it’s OK to, you know, really attack that.”
Biden, as he was boarding a flight from his home in Delaware to Nashville on Thursday, weighed in on whether the president would refrain from incessant interruptions, saying “hopefully he’s gonna play by the rules.”
The Biden campaign also forecast that the former vice president – as he did at the first debate - would once again look straight into the camera and speak directly to American voters.
Bedingfield highlighted that Biden will “talk directly to the American people about actually what they want to hear about and what he is going to do to make their lives better.”