Donald Trump broke from his preferred form of large-rally campaigning to hold a smaller, town hall-like event in New Hampshire Thursday night, insisting that the dramatic change of event style had nothing to do with Sunday's upcoming town hall presidential debate.
"Even tonight, they said Donald Trump is going to New Hampshire to practice for Sunday. This has nothing to do with Sunday," Trump told the room full of invited supporters.
Indeed, the event bore little resemblance to the debate Trump and Hillary Clinton will engage in on Sunday. Questions were read by a moderator, not the voters themselves, and typically included praise for the candidate himself, and called for little in the way of specific answers.
"Were you upset about Mr. Pence's debate success, as John Harwood said?" read one question in the half hour or so of q-and-a.
A timer on the floor of the event was set to count down from two minutes – the same amount of time the candidates are given at the town hall presidential debate on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton held a fundraiser in New York Thursday, but no public events, remaining largely sequestered to prepare for the debate.
Former Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams, who accompanied the 2012 Republican candidate to dozens of town halls in New Hampshire, said that the town hall format will be difficult for either candidate this year to master.
"[Trump] has largely eschewed traditional campaign-style town hall events during the primary process. He’s used to just kind of parachuting into a state, having a big speech and then leaving," Williams said. "And Hillary Clinton – she’s no Bill Clinton. She really has had kind of a difficult time showing emotion and connecting with voters on a personal level."