Nathan Deal’s advice for Donald Trump’s debate: ‘He has to be nice’

Hempstead, N.Y. - Perhaps the biggest question ahead of Monday’s first presidential debate is which Donald Trump will show up: The freewheeling, insult-spouting candidate who won over the hearts of Republican primary voters or the relatively more measured candidate who surfaced after the July conventions.

Gov. Nathan Deal, a reluctant supporter of the New York businessman, has a plea for Trump to embrace the latter strategy.

“He has to be nice. That’s my wife’s advice to everybody. If you want to be elected, be nice to people,” he told reporters in Sandy Springs on Monday. “I think he’s getting better at that.”

Doug Richards of 11 Alive News pointed out that Trump’s sharp rhetoric seemed to attract voters in the first place.

“I think that’s attracted some folks,” said Deal. “But I think he’s now at the point where he’s recognized that in order to be accepted by a broader base, he’s going to have to tone down some of his comments that he’s made in the past, and I think he’s done that.”

Deal, we should add, might not exactly be glued to the TV. He wanted to keep the focus on the groundbreaking of Mercedes-Benz new North American headquarters in Sandy Springs, and sounded like he was more interested in tonight's Monday Night Football matchup between the Falcons and the New Orleans Saints.

The governor was at the Sandy Springs event with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, one of Hillary Clinton’s top supporters in the South. Reed had a decidedly different take on Trump, who he said will “try to make as much chaos as possible” at tonight’s debate.

“She has two important things to accomplish: One is to make sure that Don Trump is held accountable for his current behavior and past behavior. And two, to get out a positive record for what she plans to do for America,” said Reed, who spoke with our AJC colleague Scott Trubey and other reporters.

“At the end of the day this election is going to be determined by who people believe are going to make their lives better,” he added. “That’s what she brings to the debate.”

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The rest of our debate coverage:

More: How to watch Monday’s presidential debate – and what to watch for

More: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are deadlocked ahead of first debate

More: Behind the curtains at Hofstra University’s presidential debate

More: Where to catch the debates in Georgia

More: Why this year’s presidential debate could be more pivotal than usual

More: Tim Kaine’s message to voters at Gwinnett’s Fiesta Mexicana


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.