Trump campaign asks a MO senator to help with debate prep. It’s not the one you think

Sen. Eric Schmitt didn’t participate in any major debates during his 2022 election. He has only been in Washington two years. He doesn’t hold any leadership positions. He has a limited, if any, national profile.

But when former President Donald Trump visited Washington last week, Schmitt was chosen alongside Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential vice presidential pick, to participate in a meeting to help Trump prepare for next week’s debate with President Joe Biden.

Schmitt said Tuesday that people close to Trump reached out to him and he was honored to participate. But he demurred when he was asked why he was chosen.

“I don’t know,” Schmitt said. “I mean, I think as a former attorney general, taking on tough fights and having a perspective, maybe of what the landscape looks like and hopefully making solid arguments, but that’s probably for them to answer.”

When asked why Schmitt was chosen, Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller dismissed the notion of debate preparation.

“President Trump takes on numerous tough interviews every single week and delivers lengthy rally speeches while standing,” Miller said. “He does not need to be programmed by staff or shot up with chemicals like Joe Biden does.”

Trump and Biden are set to participate in the first of two presidential debates on June 27, nearly five months before Election Day. It comes as Biden has struggled to win over politically disengaged voters and has been trailing in the polls.

The Biden campaign has sought to portray the election as critical for democracy — highlighting Trump’s legal trouble and his willingness to buck Democratic norms, like his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election.

But the campaign has struggled with issues like high prices and immigration, as the Biden administration has struggled to significantly cut inflation and amid reports of a large number of people illegally crossing the south western border.

Schmitt declined to get into specifics about what topics came up in the meeting, first reported by The New York Times, was said the discussion focused on policy.

“Clearly, I mean, he’s very good at this,” Schmitt said. “He’s won the presidency before, I think he’s a really good debater, he’s an incredible counter puncher. So he doesn’t need to take any advice for me, but for whatever it is that I could offer, I certainly was honored to do it.”

As polls show that voters are concerned about Biden’s age, Republicans have been quick to portray the 81-year-old president, just three and a half years older than Trump, as too feeble to be able to withstand a 90-minute debate.

“I think that it’s gonna be a real challenge for Joe Biden to stand up on his feet for 90 minutes and defend his record,” Schmitt said. “And I think it’s a pretty unique opportunity for the American people and voters to have two people who served as president running against one another.”

Schmitt was referencing reporting by a conservative outlet that the Biden campaign wanted the president to be able to sit for the debate. CNN, the network hosting the debate, denied the report.

The White House has called videos intentionally edited to make Biden look old and frail “cheap fakes” and have said they are being produced in “bad faith.”

“I think that it tells you everything that we need to know about how desperate Republicans are here,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

While Schmitt has been loyal to Trump, he only received a halfhearted endorsement from the former president during the Republican primary for Senate in 2022. But Schmitt got Trump’s full endorsement in the general election, spent a morning at Trump’s hush money trial and posted a picture last week of the two playing golf.

Schmitt is one of only a handful of lawmakers who has been invited to participate in debate prep. Sen. Josh Hawley, who is supporting Trump, said he has not been asked to help.

“It really is hard to give other people advice about debate prep,” Hawley said. “He’s been around the block, he’s been doing this a long time. He’s been answering questions a long time. He has a style. I think if you tell people like ‘hey, you know, try to like, try to smile when you look at the camera.’ It’s not going to work.”