The Democratic and Republican conventions are over, which means the next big events on the presidential campaign calendar are the debates.
The first presidential faceoff takes place in less than two months. Given how high-stakes these affairs are, a candidate can't start preparing too soon.
And preparing means having a stand-in -- someone who can mimic the arguments and political style of your opponents in mock debates. Republicans have a go-to guy for this role: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). He's played Barack Obama twice -- in 2008 and 2012 -- and Al Gore before that. He's busy with a tough reelection campaign this year -- and may not be able to pull off a Clinton impersonation quite as easily as he has assumed the persona of, you know, middle-aged men -- so we'll see.
But really, the much more interesting question is who will play Donald Trump. There are plenty of Trump impersonators who can do the voice and match his style, but who can actually debate like him? It's a big job. You might even call it yuge.
The Clinton camp isn't yet saying who it'll be -- and all of this is assuming Trump doesn't boycott the debates, which there is a non-zero chance of -- but we have a few likely prospects:
The Minnesota senator, in his speech earlier this week to the Democratic National Convention, declared himself a "world-renowned expert on right-wing megalomaniacs." Indeed, he has written books about such big, blunt, controversial Republican talkers as Rush Limbaugh (title: "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot"), Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter. So if you're looking for someone familiar with the subject matter, he might make the most sense.
Plus, he's an actor and improviser by trade. So, check and check.
Franken is also an emerging presence on the national stage, and was even mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton. Insiders seem to think he makes a lot of sense. After Stat's Dylan Scott tweeted this request Thursday, Franken's name quickly rose to the top.
This one works for a couple reasons. First, he's very tight with the Clintons. Second, he's got lots of political experience as Pennsylvania governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And third, he's known for uttering Trump-esque things even when he's not trying to.
Just a couple months ago, in fact, Rendell was forced to apologize for saying (joking?) that ugly women wouldn't support Trump. And back in 2010, he shot down thinly-sourced rumors of an affair by saying the following:
"I do not have affairs with women, and it's really unfair. It's particularly unfair to attractive women. I should go out and find an unattractive woman to have an affair with."
So, yeah, maybe Trump isn't too far of a stretch.
Kaine already has a kind-of-important job in this race, yes, but he also seemed to relish doing a Donald Trump impression during his speech to the convention Wednesday. The Virginia senator riffed on Trump's tendency to say "Believe me" and even put on a New York accent.
But Kaine's got his own debate -- the VP candidates face off Oct. 4
19 in Las Vegas in Farmville, Va. -- and he's probably too soft-spoken and inoffensive to really pull off a Trump impression. Sad!
Sort of a Western Rendell. The former Montana governor is known for popping off now and again. He was talked up as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but then he offered a careless metaphor in which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was a prostitute and mused about former GOP House majority leader Eric Cantor (Va.) setting off his "gaydar." (Note: These are actual things he said -- in one interview.)
And even when he's not saying things he later has to apologize for, Schweitzer is, like Trump, one of the most quotable men in politics. You never know what's going to come out of his mouth next.
Schweitzer has been pretty quiet politically for the last couple years. But just last week he seemed to reemerge in Montana politics. Maybe doing debate prep would help ease him back into the game.
Vice President Biden
Biden spent a good portion of his speech at the convention on Wednesday picking Trump apart, piece by piece. And he's good on the populist thing -- albeit from a different angle than Trump. He's also, like Rendell and Schweitzer, capable of inserting his foot into his mouth and saying strange things.
Think of Biden as Rendell or Schweitzer, but with more discipline. On the other hand, like Kaine, he's got a pretty demanding day job right now.
Nobody has been doing a high-level impersonation of Trump for as long as the longtime "Saturday Night Live" star. He might not be quite as well-versed in the political issues, but if the goal is to throw curveballs at Clinton over and over again in debate prep, Hammond could certainly do it.
And really, what are the odds that Trump will get bogged down in a policy debate with Clinton? Policy isn't really his thing; image and Making America Great Again are. Hammond might seem like an un-serious option for debate prep, but in the Year of Trump, you need to think outside the box.