The official polls are in and Donald Trump lost the first presidential debate to Hillary Clinton by double digits across the board. At first, he tried to do a self-congratulatory victory lap after seeing the results of several online polls that were flooded with his supporters from Reddit and 4Chan, but even Fox News told their staff citing those polls was beneath their editorial standards.
So what’s a Trump surrogate to do when pressed by the media about Trump’s terrible night? Many anonymously conceded he had obviously struggled during the debate.
And The Donald is livid.
According to CNN, in a conference call with surrogates on Wednesday, aides made clear that Trump was upset that surrogates had admitted the campaign would be changing up his strategy and prep tactics before the next debate. One source told CNN the message was “not subtle,” as in, push on and pretend everything is roses.
The source says Trump wants his surrogates to give an “energetic defense” of his performance and under no circumstances concede he showed any weaknesses.
According to CNN’s source, they wanted Trump’s surrogates to push this message instead:
Trump’s team told surrogates to say that Trump successfully reinforced his outsider status, contrasting him with Clinton as a status quo candidate, and to zero in on one-liners that they saw as successful — particularly his repeated line that Clinton has been in public life nearly 30 years with little to show for it.
One adviser to the Trump campaign said the Republican nominee has been “made aware” that the debate didn’t go in his favor, “gingerly,” of course. Wouldn’t want to wound the nominee’s thin skin, after all.
Now, Trump’s aides and advisers are hoping the nominee can see that preparation for the debate is necessary and will take the homework more seriously going into the next debate that will occur in 11 days, in a townhall format.
Advisers also said they had prepared Trump with plenty of comeback remarks to Clinton’s attacks:
He just didn’t use them. Nobody is really sure why, but we’re all certain he won’t let opportunities pass next time around.
Another ally said that Trump seems unaware he needed to appeal to a broader audience, not just his true believers whose votes he’s already cemented. When he claimed not paying his taxes “makes me smart,” a focus group of undecided voters gasped. When Clinton accused Trump of delighting in the crash of the housing bubble, Trump didn’t deny it, he said it was “good business” — surely some Trump supporters and undecided voters lost their homes that year. When Clinton accused Trump of a sexist and racist attack against a former Miss Universe winner, Trump couldn’t deflect and then went on Fox News and doubled down on his negative comments about the contestant — undecided women voters hated it. He took the bait at every turn, unaware Clinton was trapping him into portraying the image of an out-of-touch, heartless plutocrat who has never helped anyone but himself.
Trump is tasking his surrogates with the impossible — to feign victory in the face of utter defeat. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s capable of listening to his advisers and taking the debate seriously from here on out, or if we’re in for an even more comedic melting down of the Republican nominee, while surrogates spin lies about the billionaire manbaby will make a great president one day.
Featured image via Getty Images/Win McNamee