Inside DeSantis’ Debate Preparation: Meeting with the Coach, Getting Ready Weekly – and Getting Ready for the Attacks
Ahead of the first Republican primary debate in Milwaukee, in two weeks’ time, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is ramping up his preparations and preparing for a potential attack from his rivals when he steps onstage, sources familiar with his strategy tell ABC News.
As DeSantis prepares for the Aug. 23 debate — which will provide him with the opportunity to present a renewed show for a national audience Amid stagnation in early poll numbers Against Donald Trump – The Florida governor has enlisted the help of veteran debate coach Brett O’Donnell, and has been holding regular questionsSources said: & sessions at least once a week.
But questions remain about whether former President Trump, who remains the Republican Party’s leading nominee, will attend the first debate and how his decision will affect the other candidates as they try to undermine Trump’s continued lead in the polls.
Trump has repeatedly quipped that he will skip the first debate, noting his big lead so far.
“Why would I want to debate instead of doing something else that night? Why would I want to debate when you have people asking me hostile questions at the zero and 1% level?” Trump said earlier.
Sources said his potential absence from the debate would likely put a larger target on DeSantis, who ranks second in several polls — a scenario the governor’s team has been strategizing for.
The sources said DeSantis’ campaign is actively grooming him to resist “relentless” attacks from fellow candidates.
But if Trump ultimately skips the debate, sources tell ABC News that DeSantis’ campaign believes the move could hurt the former president to the core voters who want to see him on stage. DeSantis’ campaign is polling on the issue with Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Sources said that despite the uncertainty about Trump’s participation, DeSantis and his campaign are working to capitalize on either scenario. If Trump attends, the sources said they expect DeSantis to use the opportunity in person to highlight differences between him and Trump.
Throughout his career, DeSantis has noted how his handling of COVID-19 — and avoiding many related public health restrictions — compares to Trump, who often echoed medical experts in the pandemic’s early months about the value of temporary shutdowns.
“Regardless of whether Donald Trump is afraid of the debate or not, Ron DeSantis looks forward to appearing on stage in Milwaukee to talk about his plans to defeat Joe Biden, reverse the decline in our nation, and revive the future of America,” DeSantis campaign communications. director Andrew Romeo said in a statement to ABC News.
And in an exclusive interview with ABC News in late July, DeSantis confirmed that he was preparing for Trump’s possible appearance at the debate.
“We are preparing for both possibilities,” DeSantis said at the time. “He says he won’t go, he might come.”
He added, “I think he should come. I think everyone should come. You owe it to people to make the case to the people why you should be president. At the end of the day, no one gets to run.”
DeSantis has for months avoided directly criticizing Trump with the same vehemence as Trump, but DeSantis has recently argued on the road that Trump’s mounting legal troubles — including three indictments, each of which he denies — could weaken Republicans in the 2024 election.
“If the election becomes a referendum on trivial matters like the document found near the toilet [Trump’s club] “Mar-a-Lago, victory is unlikely for us,” DeSantis said during an interview with Rachel Scott, ABC News’ chief congressional correspondent, at a campaign event in Iowa.
He said at the time: “Our concern should be focused on people’s aspirations for their future.” “In 2024, we must avoid distractions to succeed.”
DeSantis’ campaign has undergone multiple changes this summer, ABC News previously reported: He recently replaced his campaign manager and cut dozens of staff as part of a focus on spending, as his team assesses they have depleted money too quickly and hired too many people.
The governor also began to adopt a new approach to the media, including giving multiple interviews to mainstream media outlets not affiliated with Fox News.
Behind closed doors, senior aides have held discussions with donors to address concerns about his bid for the White House so far.
“This will be a country-by-country competition,” he said in July.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com