WASHINGTON — Some of President Donald Trump’s allies said after his chaotic first debate that he had squandered one of his last opportunities to change the dynamics of a race in which he has long trailed by diverting from the strategy his team had laid out, coming off as mean and angry rather than confident and in command.
Advisers say Trump missed repeated chances to deal blows to Democratic nominee Joe Biden in areas they had prepped for, such as China and past comments Biden had made about race, while failing to lay out his own case for what a second term would look like. The mood around the campaign and the White House on Wednesday morning was described as “worried,” “quiet” and “in shock,” people familiar with the situation said.
While there is a consensus among those close to the campaign that the night probably didn’t lose Trump any votes among his base, the president needed to do more than hold his ground: He has trailed Biden in nearly every major national poll for the past year, including those in battleground states. Millions of ballots have already been sent out; by the time Trump gets on the debate stage again, early in-person voting will already have begun in North Carolina and Iowa, where he faces tough contests.