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Trump and Biden at the first debate. Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Image

Watch for President Trump to address Joe Biden as “the big guy” or “the chairman” at tonight's debate as a way of dramatizing the Hunter Biden emails. Hunter's former business partner Tony Bobulinski is expected to be a Trump debate guest.

The big picture: Trump's advisers universally view the first debate as a catastrophe — evidenced by a sharp plunge in Trump’s public and (more convincingly for them) private polling immediately following the debate.

  • The team has a message for him: Let Joe Biden talk — he’s not good at talking!
  • They want him to smile more, be lighter, and pick his moments to attack rather than attacking constantly for 90 minutes and turning off viewers.

Former VP Joe Biden's team wants to keep up the pressure on Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The Biden campaign didn’t lay out directly how they might respond to attacks related to the Hunter emails, but they previewed it by dismissing it as Russian disinformation. 
  • Biden might press Trump on his "60 Minutes" interview — which Trump released today ahead of it airing on CBS — that features the president saying "I hope they end" the Affordable Care Act.
  • "Whichever version of Trump shows up tonight, nothing will change the impact his erratic, chaotic presidency has had on the American people," said Kate Bedingfield, Biden campaign manager, on a call with reporters.

Between the lines: A producer from the Commission on Presidential Debates will have the ability to mute microphones during the opening parts of each of tonight's six segments.

  • Trump interrupted Biden 71 times during the last debate, while Biden interrupted Trump 22 times.

One Trump adviser said he pushed the president to hammer Biden repeatedly on the economy — how he’ll raise your taxes, increase regulations and go to war against fracking. 

  • None of Trump’s advisers expressed any great confidence he would do any of this, but said they remained hopeful.

The big question: How much can this debate actually change the dynamics of the race?

  • Over 42 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 general election.
An official walks past seats that are marked as off limits to encourage social distancing. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

The debate starts at 9 p.m. EST on NBC, moderated by Kristen Welker.

Go deeper

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dec 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Thursday night frights for Biden White House

Reproduced from Homebase; Chart: Axios Visuals 

President-elect Joe Biden is building an economic team to deal with a post-COVID economic free fall, and a jobs report coming out Friday — expected to show reduced hiring last month — is anticipated to give that group a preview of coming attractions.

Why it matters: Biden's economic advisers are worried any failure to inject money into the economy now will only multiply their challenges once they take office, but President Trump remains fixated on litigating his election loss.

Trump campaign, RNC have raised $207.5 million since Election Day

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee said Thursday they have hauled in $207.5 million since Election Day.

Why it matters: The funds have been largely raised through President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Trump has refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden. His campaign's slew of lawsuits and recount efforts have seen little success.