Donald Trump's Debate Game Plan: Wing It

Candidates usually spend hours and hours preparing for a major debate.

August 5, 2015, 4:39 PM

— -- Candidates usually spend hours and hours preparing for a major debate -- reading up the issues, going through practice Q & A sessions or mock debates and practicing lines to use when the big moment comes.

Not Donald Trump.

“Trump doesn’t rehearse,” a senior Trump advisor said today.

It’s not that his political team hasn’t tried. Trump’s aides have prepared him memos on the issues and the expected lines of questions and potential attacks from the other candidates, but there have been no formal debate prep sessions, no mock Q & A, no practice debates.

“I have no idea what to expect,” a senior Trump advisor told me. “I’m just as clueless as you about what he’ll do.”

But the Trump political operation is starting to look more like a traditional campaign with operatives on the ground in the early states and a policy team putting together position papers on domestic and foreign policy issues. The Trump team promises those position papers will be released soon.

In a sign Trump intends to be in the campaign for the duration, his political team is now focused on ensuring he gets on the ballot in the later primary states. Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are easy, but the rules are much stricter in several of the later states.

It can require months of work to assemble the necessary signatures and navigate red tape. In 2012, for example, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both failed to get on the ballot in Virginia, helping to ensure Mitt Romney’s ultimate victory.

“To get on the ballot in Virginia,” the Trump advisor said, “we need to start working now.”

The effort to make sure Trump is positioned well – and has ballot access – in states after Iowa and New Hampshire is being led by two veteran political operatives hired this year by Trump: Alan Cobb, who formerly worked for the Koch brothers, and Michael Glassner, a veteran of the Dole and Bush ’43 presidential campaigns and former chief of staff to Sarah Palin’s political organization.

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