Trump, Clinton campaigns look to build momentum for Sunday’s debate

Republican Pence logged a calm and steady performance Tuesday that the Donald Trump campaign desperately needed following a grueling week that saw relentless headlines about his foundation, tax returns and treatment of women amid a public feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

The New York businessman will need to follow up this weekend with a measured performance that is low on personal attacks and underscores Democrat Hillary Clinton’s trust gap with voters if he hopes to swing momentum back in his favor.

Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the town hall format of Sunday’s matchup, which will be hosted by Washington University in St. Louis and moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz, plays to Trump’s strengths.

She said to expect a Trump who’s more focused on policy, with some references to current events.

“He has the right to defend himself, but I think he’s best defending himself when he’s defending policy, when he can take the case right to Hillary Clinton and keep this election what it’s always been about: Do you want as Americans the past or the future? A typical politician or a successful businessman?” Conway said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Observers declared that Democrat Kaine lost the VP debate on style with his seemingly canned zingers and aggressive interruptions of Pence and the debate moderator.

But the Clinton campaign said the Virginia U.S. senator won on substance, saying Pence often backed away from Trump’s past comments and positions when pressured by Kaine.

Looking ahead, Clinton will seek opportunities to once again show her commanding expertise when it comes to policy details while avoiding appearing robotic.

Campaign manager Robby Mook said Clinton is not expecting Trump to attack her on personal details, such as her husband’s past infidelities, but that she will be prepared in case he does.

“She’s going to be ready for whatever he sends her way,” Mook told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s a smart strategy for Trump to come at her with these sorts of personal attacks. I think he has an enormous amount of ground to make up in terms of demonstrating that he has specific plans to make a difference in people’s lives and that he has the temperament to serve as our next commander in chief.”

Clinton’s schedule is thin in the days ahead as she prepares for the debate. But top surrogates, including President Barack Obama and one-time rival Bernie Sanders, are crisscrossing the country to underscore her message that Trump does not have the impulse control needed to be president.

Trump, meanwhile, has campaign rallies scheduled in Nevada.

With less than five weeks until voters hit the polls, the pressure is on for the candidates to shore up support, particularly in battlegrounds such as North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

National polls have showed Trump and Clinton locked in a tight race, but the former secretary of state has held a small but notable lead in recent surveys.

Early voting has begun in select battlegrounds, including Iowa and Wisconsin. In Georgia, absentee voting is underway and early in-person voting begins Oct. 17.

Despite polls this summer that showed Clinton with a small lead in Georgia, Trump has regained in the state. A handful of mid-September surveys showed the Republican with an average lead of nearly 5 percentage points, above the margin of error.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.