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President Trump at the Sept. 29 debate in Ohio. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump's team is telling him ahead of Thursday's final debate: Stop interrupting Joe Biden. And try to be more likable.

What to watch: Trump will tell more jokes and try, if he can stay on message, to strike a softer tone. At the same time, aides expect Trump to keep going after Biden's son Hunter.

Be smart: Trump's team thinks that if he'd just yield the stage to Biden while the moderator is asking questions, Biden would wander rhetorically, "look doddering" and "step on himself."

  • "Don’t save him,” is their advice to the president, a Trump adviser tells Axios.
  • In the September debate, Trump interrupted Biden 71 times, compared with Biden's 22 interruptions of Trump.

What we're hearing: Trump’s team went back to his third debate against Hillary Clinton in 2016 for inspiration. “All Trump has to do is give people permission to vote for him," one source close to the campaign tells Axios.

  • "He did exactly the opposite of that in the first debate. So hopefully he can right the ship in this one, because his re-election may depend on it."

The big question: Will debate prep matter? "It was clear Trump didn’t study his debate document for round one," one campaign source said.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump becomes first president to be impeached twice

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House voted 232-197 to impeach President Trump for “incitement of insurrection" after a violent pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol last week while Congress met to count the Electoral College vote.

Why it matters: Trump is now the only president in history to have been impeached twice — his first impeachment happened just over a year ago in December of 2019. He has just one week left in his term before President-elect Biden is sworn-in on Jan. 20.

Mike Pence calls Kamala Harris to offer congratulations and help

Mike Pence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

Vice President Mike Pence called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday to congratulate her and offer assistance in the transition, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: The belated conversation came six days before the inauguration after a contentious post-election stretch. President Trump has neither spoken with President-elect Joe Biden, nor explicitly conceded the 2020 election.

It's still Trump's party

Data: Axios research, ProPublica. (Non-voting members excluded). Graphic: Michelle McGhee and Sara Wise/Axios

He lied about the election being fixed. He incited an attack that left five dead at the U.S Capitol. He got impeached. Twice. But polling indicates Republicans still have his back — and views — by vast majorities.

Why it matters: Anyone who thinks Trump is a politically dead man walking appears pointedly dead wrong.