Trump’s debate prep is as unorthodox as he is

Sitting presidents often have a rude awakening at first presidential debates, since they are unused to anyone getting in their grill and contradicting them. But Trump’s advantage on this score may be compromised since he refused to debate any of his GOP primary rivals this year. Still, his aggressive debate style isn’t much different from the belligerent, spiky attitude he displays in most public events.

Trump has warmed up for the debate by suggesting that Biden will be “jacked up” on drugs, as his aides frantically have tried to dismantle the expectations trap that the ex-president constructed for himself by suggesting that Biden is so mentally diminished that he can barely stand up or finish a sentence. In any other era, the idea of a candidate accusing an opponent of doping would be unthinkable. But Trump’s tactic is a reminder of a presidency and a political style that has shattered all previous norms.

In a new memo on Wednesday, Trump’s campaign signaled that the ex-president would assail Biden over immigration and the economy. It boasted about polling averages that his team says show the former president up in all the key states.

And Trump, whose administration created a gale of daily falsehoods, characteristically worked to accuse Biden of the very transgression that is most associated with him — lying. “The man is a walking lying machine and a fact-checker’s dream,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, while accusing Biden, one of the best presidential golfers, of being unable to hit a ball 10 yards.

Trump’s unorthodox approach means that the country may get another reminder of the chaos, discord and cacophony that it experienced in his four years in office — and that his supporters love and want to restore.

But it’s also a risk that could play into Biden’s desire to get voters to see the contrast between the 45th and 46th presidents that he believes could deliver him the election.

Former Obama speechwriter Terry Szuplat said successful debate performances tell a coherent story of where the country is and where it is going.

“It’s a story about yourself. Why you’re the right candidate. Why the other candidate is the wrong candidate. And it’s a story about the future. Every election is about the future. It’s a choice about the future,” Szuplat told CNN’s Kasie Hunt.

Neither Trump nor Biden has so far fulfilled that goal. Thursday is the best chance to do so.