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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 4 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.