Last weekend, Philippe Reines walked over to Ron Klain’s house in Washington, D.C., to hand off his Donald Trump outfit: the suit, the shoes with the lifts, the shirt, the long red tie, the cufflinks. Just in case. When the former Hillary Clinton aide stored the outfit in a bag after playing Trump in debate prep four years ago, a part of him thought it might one day be in her presidential library.
Klain ran Clinton’s debate prep, and he’s doing it again this year for Joe Biden. Klain has a rule against discussing the process, but he did tell me that no one is going to be putting on the outfit this year. The former vice president doesn’t like mock debates—he prefers to read research briefings and have a collection of aides fire questions at him.
Trump says he isn’t preparing at all ahead of the first debate, which is set for September 29. And many Americans aren’t particularly interested: In a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 44 percent said the events are “not at all important” for deciding their vote; 18 percent said they were “extremely important,” and 11 percent said “quite important.” Almost every Democratic operative I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks remains petrified that Biden is going to bungle the debates in a way that costs him the election—perhaps by looking old or confused, confirming the worst paranoia and conspiracy theories about him being unfit for the job. They see the debates as Biden’s best chance to blow an election that, based on the current polls, seems like his to lose.