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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

Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden on Trump's impeachment trial: "I think it has to happen"

President Biden told CNN Monday that he believes the impeachment trial of former President Trump "has to happen," but he does not think 17 Republicans will join Democrats to vote to convict.

Why it matters: Biden's comments are most concrete he has made about his views on Trump's second impeachment.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.