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Team Biden is betting that an unfiltered Trump can shake up the race during the debate

In many ways, the June 27 debate can’t come soon enough for the president Joe Biden‘s campaign.

In a race in which Donald Trump’s criminal trial dimmed the sun for weeks, in which Biden struggled in most polls for months and in which Democrats insisted that potential voters have forgotten what Trump’s years in the White House really looked like, Team Biden sees the opportunity for him to take on his nemesis as a likely catalytic moment.

That’s especially true if Biden shows up with the same energy he brought to his State of the Union address in March, many Democrats say.

Finally, Democrats and Biden officials hope the public will be able to put aside the caricatures of the candidates and instead view them side by side.

“President Trump’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ concept is real. I think people forget the way he interacts, the way he communicates, the inaccuracies of the things he says and promises to the American people,” said Democratic strategist Amanda Loveday, an adviser to the pro-Biden political action committee Unite the Country. “A debate like this ensures that there are no distractions and allows people to see them side by side, answer questions one after the other and compare them.”

During the campaign, aides believe Biden will walk onto the stage with the upper hand. His mandate will mainly be to “let Trump be Trump,” which they say will reveal extreme tendencies and a less stable Trump than four years ago. Biden is likely to portray Trump as obsessed with revenge and retaliation and will focus on the political violence during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, a campaign official said.

Biden, who is now making several European trips, will return to the US and then go to Los Angeles for fundraising. Once Biden returns to the White House, a source with knowledge of his debate preparations says, he is expected to have 10 days to settle in and participate in extensive prep sessions. They could include more intensive sessions during the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland.

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Trump’s team has portrayed Biden as an inept politician who can barely follow a teleprompter and whose leadership includes embroiling the US in two foreign wars.

“This will be the most important debate since JFK-Richard Nixon” in 1960, said Frank Luntz, a Republican Party pollster who regularly holds focus groups with voters. Luntz said the first debate could be a pivotal moment etched in the public’s minds in a race full of accusations from both sides, with few opportunities to compare the two candidates on the same stage.

We all get a chance to see if Joe Biden is as weak as Trump says he is. We all get a chance to see if Donald Trump is as unhinged as Joe Biden says he is,” Luntz said. “This is our chance to test the candidates’ worst accusations against each other.”

For months, the frame of the race leaned more toward a referendum on Biden, with aides and allies frustrated that he was not getting credit for a strong economy and for advancing policy proposals to support reproductive rights or strengthen infrastructure, with federal student loans were forgiven. and limiting the cost of insulin. Biden’s campaign has spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Trump, including over his role in overturning Roe v. Wade. Biden has even tried to address one of his biggest vulnerabilities by taking a more aggressive stance on immigration; he signed an executive order intended to severely limit the number of migrants crossing the southern border.

It all did little to change Biden’s voting numbers. Instead, polls have shown Biden losing support to Trump, including among Latino and Black voters. In many surveys, potential voters have pointed to greater confidence in Trump leading the economy — a position that, Democrats believe, is shaped by short memories.

In an interview Thursday with ABC News, Biden laid out his goals for the debate to anchor David Muir.

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‘Say what I think. Let him say what he thinks. The things he says are wrong: ‘I want to be a dictator from day one.’ I want to go in a direction where he’s talking about, you know, suspending the Constitution,” Biden said. “All I have to do is hear what he says – remind people what he says and what I believe and what he believes. It’s about him. For me it’s about the country.”

Democrats point to the first 2020 debate between Biden and Trump in Cleveland, seeing it as an example of the most likely and advantageous dynamic for Biden. Trump then acted somewhat frenetically and regularly interrupted Biden. Days later, Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with Covid-19. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows later said in a book that Trump had tested positive three days before the debate, which Trump called “fake news.”

During that 2020 debate, Trump frequently ignored moderator Chris Wallace, talking over him and raising his voice, and he repeatedly attacked Biden. At one point, Trump went after Biden’s son Hunter and mocked his cocaine use, a moment largely seen as backfiring after Biden changed the moment to a moment where a father spoke about having a son battling addiction . At another point, Trump was asked to denounce white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, and instead said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stay ready.” The group celebrated Trump’s shoutout.

“Trump really did himself a disservice during those debates. He has never really shown discipline because he only knows how to produce a circus and a show,” said Michael LaRosa, former spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. LaRosa agreed that Biden had the upper hand and said he would be best served by not being tempted to respond to every insult or slight. “If Trump is trying to goad or if Trump is interrupting, make Trump look youthful, seem rude and seem obnoxious. Let his unpleasantness come through the television screen.

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Trump’s campaign has repeatedly portrayed Biden as weak and scripted, with Trump himself calling him “Sleepy Joe.” After Biden was roundly praised for his energetic State of the Union address, Republicans wondered whether they had set the bar too low for him. It led to Trump, without any evidence, later accusing Biden of drug use. He then demanded a drug test before the debate, which he also did in 2020. In response to questions about the debate from NBC News, the Trump campaign again accused Biden, without evidence, of using “chemicals.”

“President Trump conducts countless tough interviews and delivers long standing speeches every week, demonstrating the endurance of the elite,” Jason Miller, Trump’s senior campaign adviser, said in a statement. “He doesn’t need to be programmed by staff or shot with chemicals like Joe Biden is doing.”

Ultimately, Democrats argue that it is Trump who has the most to lose going into the debate, because he now benefits from the prevailing narrative in the presidential race that things were better under him. And that offers opportunities for Biden.

Angelo Carusone, president of the left-wing journalism watchdog group Media Matters for America, said most people get their impressions from snippets of news or shortened videos on social media, which portray Biden as a doddering old man, walking slowly or stumbling over his words . .

‘I don’t think he comes across as small and meek. “I have a feeling that people will see that comparison and they will hear someone making coherent arguments and Trump will say very random things,” he said.

Carusone, who has seen hundreds of Trump rallies since 2016, dozens this year, insists it is Trump who has declined — not Biden. “It’s important that people see him unfiltered for a while so they can at least process how much he’s changed. And it has gotten worse over time; he refused. And in some ways it has become more rabid and intense.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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