Trump freewheels towards debate as Biden rehearses at Camp David

<span>‘This race is going to be tight,’ said Joe Biden’s campaign co-chairperson Mitch Landrieu.</span><span>Photograph: AP</span>
‘This race is going to be tight,’ said Joe Biden’s campaign co-chairperson Mitch Landrieu.Photograph: AP

Presidential political surrogates fanned out across the Sunday talkshows to prepare the ground for next week’s televised debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, which could help the Democratic incumbent and his Republican predecessor focus the minds of undecided or unengaged voters on November’s election.

But the candidates themselves are taking strikingly different approaches. Biden is hunkered down at Camp David in debate preparation, reportedly with his personal attorney Bob Bauer standing in for Trump in mock exchanges.

Bauer told Politico last week that his job was “to approximate as closely as you possibly can how it is that that individual, the opponent, is going to debate”.

Trump, however, is not known to have a debate surrogate – or been in any debate practice. Instead, he has been out on the campaign trail. In Philadelphia on Saturday, he continued his rhetoric on immigration, at one point saying he would suggest to Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, that the organization pit a league of fighters who are immigrants against the “regular” league fighters with the champion of each then squaring off.

That left the talkshows to mull the impending clash with campaign surrogates talking up – or talking down – mounting expectations for a decisive exchange. However, there are also concerns that without a live TV audience to provide voter interaction, it could also fall flat.

“I expect President Biden to do an excellent job just like he did the last few debates,” Biden’s campaign co-chairperson Mitch Landrieu told NBC’s Meet the Press.

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Referring in part to Trump’s conviction in the criminal prosecution involving hush-money paid to the adult film actor Stormy Daniels, Landrieu said: “It really doesn’t matter how Donald Trump shows up, if he comes in unhinged, like he has most of the time, or he sits there and is quiet, people are going to know that he’s a twice-impeached convicted felon who has been found to have defamed somebody, sexually abused somebody and going bankrupt six times.”

Landrieu said that Biden was “really anxious to tell his story to the American people”, adding: “This race is going to be tight. Everybody knows that.”

Trump, Landrieu said, “wakes up every day pretty much thinking about himself, thinking about his rich friends … really thinking about ways to hurt people with the power that he would have if he were the president of the United States again”.

Biden, Landrieu added, “wants to be really clear about the difference between those two that everybody will see again on Thursday”.

Also for the Democrats was the US senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a member of the national advisory board for Biden’s re-election campaign. With the second anniversary of the elimination of federal abortion rights previously granted by Roe v Wade falling on Monday, Warren sought to bring reproductive rights to the forefront of the looming presidential race, a posture that let Democrats retain control of the Senate and blunted the Republican House majority in 2022.

Warren said that if Biden is re-elected and Democrats are given a majority in Congress, her party would be able to defend and restore access to abortion, contraception and in vitro fertilization.

“We’re going to make Roe v Wade [the] law of the land again,” Warren said. “Understand this. I want to say this as clearly as I can. If Donald Trump is elected to the presidency, he and the extremist Republicans are coming after abortion, contraception, and IVF in every single state in this country. Not just the [conservative] states.”

Trump has said his VP pick will be in the audience in Atlanta on Thursday – a contest that is reported to have narrowed to the North Dakota governor, Doug Burgum, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and Ohio senator JD Vance.

Trump told reporters on Saturday he had made a determination but has not let them know. “In my mind, yeah”, Trump told reporters at a cheesesteak restaurant in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Kristi Noem, the South Dakota governor who was once considered a strong contender to be Trump’s running mate, on Sunday continued trying to bounce back from a disastrous passage in her recently published book in which she recounted shooting a dog to death that she claimed had become dangerous to her family.

Noem’s admission came after Biden’s German shepherd, Commander, was merely banished from the White House after biting three dozen Secret Service agents during an 18-month reign of terror.

Noem said she thought Thursday’s clash would be “an important debate” and “a great opportunity for President Trump to talk about his policies and how his policies when he served as president of this country were good”.

Nonetheless, Noem confirmed that she had not received paperwork from Trump relating to his vice-president pick that others reportedly had. “I’ve had conversations with the president, and I know that he is the only one who will be making the decisions on who will be his vice-president,” she said diplomatically.

A strong contender for the role, Burgum told CNN’s State of the Union that Biden’s team had made a real effort to lower expectations. He challenged the network, which is the debate host, to ask tough questions, including over Biden’s assertion when he last debated Trump in 2020 that the furore around Hunter Biden’s laptop was “Russian disinformation”.

Though many claims about its contents have not been confirmed, the laptop was admitted as evidence in the recent trial which led to Hunter Biden’s conviction on three federal gun charges.

“If he’s that good at lying about that four years ago, the question is what might he do this time,” Burgum added.