Juan Williams: How Trump should watch the Democratic debates

Juan Williams: How Trump should watch the Democratic debates
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This column is for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE.

He will be Viewer Number One for this month’s first Democratic primary debates.

He might as well be onstage.

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Trump will be tweeting his insults and offering demeaning nicknames for all the Democrats who want to take him on in next year’s general election.

The moderators might even ask questions based on his live, running commentary.

Trump’s goal during the split night debate — June 26 and 27 — will be to tar potential opponents in their first moment in the national spotlight. He needs to make all the Democrats appear less appealing to voters than the prospect of another four years of Trump.

He has no choice.

A majority of Americans disapprove of his performance in the White House. And already a majority of likely voters tell pollsters they will not vote to reelect him.

So Trump will be multitasking those two nights: He has to deflate any future opponent and look for lines of attack he might use in the general election.

One note of caution, Mr. President.

Any candidate you try to skewer could benefit from the attention, especially if they have a strong comeback that shows they have the skills to trade punches with you.

The number one issue for Democratic voters is finding a candidate with the ability to defeat you.

That means they will prize a general election candidate who will not let your schoolyard bully-boy tactics and crude comments win the day.

Do you remember how you walked behind Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP senator says idea that Ukraine interfered in US election is 'not a conspiracy theory' Cotton: Democrats are 'upset that their witnesses haven't said what they want them to say' Trump's troubles won't end with a Senate acquittal MORE in threatening fashion during a 2016 debate without being told to sit down?

Clinton let you get away with that and Democrats don’t want to see it again. So, knowing that the candidates are preparing to counter-punch, you can’t let your guard down. What comes back at you could be devastating.

I’ve moderated a few presidential primary debates and the best performances are all about a good offense. That means the Democrats will be all about attack, attack, attack.

With each candidate expecting no more than ten minutes of talk time, they have to aim at the biggest targets — topics familiar to viewers such as the GOP’s assault on abortion rights.

So, here, Mr. President is your game plan for the debates.

First, every candidate is going to have to take a stand on former Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s report and calls for the House to impeach you.

Since most Democratic voters want you impeached, your response has to be designed to please people who don’t identify as Democrats — the roughly 40 percent of voters who approve of you. You have a different audience than the Democrats.

Also on the Democrats’ list of attacks against you will be your tax breaks for the rich and the higher prices Americans are paying due to tariffs.

The candidates will have a lot to say about Mueller’s finding that he could not exonerate you on suspicions of obstruction of justice. Also, expect them to be asked if they agree with his conclusion that there is insufficient evidence of conspiracy between your 2016 campaign and the Russians to justify any charges.

Your corrupt indifference to Russian interference in the 2016 race and failure to take the lead on preventing a recurrence in 2020 are also certain to come up. Again, Mr. President, play to your base, not the Democrats on the stage or in their audience.

Now for the second level of attacks — the intramural fight among Democrats that will begin with attacks on the front-runner, Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE.

The former vice president is popular among moderate, older, black and Latino Democrats who see him as the candidate most likely to defeat you.

There will be a moment when Biden is challenged, likely by one of the women on stage, about his handling of the Anita HillAnita Faye HillAnita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sanders campaign official: Biden 'actively courted pro-segregation senators' to block black students from white schools Electability is key to Democrats' 2020 fortunes MORE-Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasOn The Trail: Why 2020 is the most important election in our lifetime Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sanders campaign official: Biden 'actively courted pro-segregation senators' to block black students from white schools MORE hearings in 1991.

From the more left-wing candidates, Biden can expect critiques of his support for putting more people in jail as part of criminal justice reforms in the 1990s — a stance that turned out to disproportionately hurt minorities.

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Since you apparently agree with polls showing Biden is the biggest threat to you, Mr. President, you have to join the critics. But be careful to avoid unintentionally elevating a non-Biden candidate in the eyes of moderate Democrats and independent voters.

Finally, expect attacks on Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Sanders leads Biden by 9 points in Iowa Poll: Biden leads in Iowa ahead of caucuses The Memo: Impeachment dominates final Iowa sprint MORE (I-Vt.). He is second to Biden in most polls, with strong support from the left wing of the party and younger Democrats.

His rivals will insist he is an easy target for your charge that Democrats are “socialists.” But keep in mind, Mr. President, that Sanders’s populist anger at income inequality has a lot of appeal to what you call the “forgotten men and women," your base.

If Sanders slips in the polls, the likely beneficiary is Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Sanders leads Biden by 9 points in Iowa Poll: Biden leads in Iowa ahead of caucuses The Memo: Impeachment dominates final Iowa sprint MORE (D-Mass.). You have to decide if facing a woman in the general election might be tougher than dealing with Sanders or Biden.

One more thing, Mr. Outsider: expect to hear that you did not “drain the swamp” of Washington politics.

That means first-term Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Harris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? MORE (D-Calif.), South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegPoll: Sanders leads Biden by 9 points in Iowa Buttigieg on polarization: 'We don't have to choose between being bold and being unified' Buttigieg: America 'united in mourning' Kobe Bryant's death MORE (D) as well as tech-savvy businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangButtigieg: America 'united in mourning' Kobe Bryant's death 'The worst news': Political world mourns loss of Kobe Bryant Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to Trump tweet, Senate trial witnesses MORE will ask voters to take the country in a new direction — beyond polarizing anger at you.

Now, take the time to read your briefing, Mr. President.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.