In the first presidential debate, Donald Trump treated us to the spectacle of a man too lazy, undisciplined, and over-confident to bother preparing for an important moment.
So ahead of the second debate, Trump’s team is trying to get him to take it more seriously. For instance, Thursday night in New Hampshire they had Trump do an event in the town hall format rather than his usual rallies.
And it seems like it was a total disaster.
According to news reports, the following things happened:
- Rather than take questions from undecided voters, Trump had conservative radio host Howie Carr ask the questions on behalf of members of a handpicked crowd of Trump supporters.
- Trump observed that Hispanics in Nevada like to be referred to as Latinos.
- Trump launched into various attacks on Nate Silver, Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, and CNBC’s John Harwood.
- Trump pandered to the New England crowd by telling them he was rooting for the Red Sox in their ongoing playoff matchup against the Cleveland Indians, even though ultimately pandering to Ohio voters is more important, and Trump is supposed to be a Yankees fan.
- After saying he would take 20 questions, Trump only sat through 12 — making the whole event last just 30 minutes rather than the 90 he is going to need to stay focused for on Sunday.
- Trump disavowed the previous week and a half’s worth of complaints about the microphone at the previous debate, and now says (accurately): “It wasn’t that the mike didn’t work.”
- Trump pronounced himself very disappointed with the performance of FBI Director James Comey, a Republican and former George W. Bush administration figure who has long commanded bipartisan respect on Capitol Hill.
- Trump put a two-minute countdown clock on the stage to try to keep himself to the time limit he’ll have on Sunday’s debate, but repeatedly blew through it.
Obviously we won’t know what happens until we watch the debate on Sunday. Maybe Trump will do great. Maybe Trump has been doing secret preparation and the apparently sloppy New Hampshire performance was part of a disinformation campaign to lower expectations.
But at least on the surface it looks like what we’re seeing is that Trump is who we thought he is — a guy with undeniable charisma and television skills who is simply averse to the boring work of preparation and thinking things through. It’s a bad quality in a presidential candidate, but a potentially disastrous one in an actual president.