Hill backers: Donald Trump knows debate stakes

Story highlights

  • Donald Trump's supporters on Capitol Hill met for one last time before the election
  • The Trump campaign sent out a debate prep survey to supporters on Thursday

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump's supporters on Capitol Hill said Thursday they know the stakes are high for Monday night's debate and could set the tone for the sprint to Election Day.

"Donald Trump knows, the team knows that Monday night is going to be not necessarily make or break, but the momentum coming out of Monday night could be critical on both sides and Donald Trump knows that," said Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican, as he walked out of what could be the final meeting of Trump's congressional supporters.
"He's likely to bring up some Clinton issues. I think we're going to see some give and take there," Collins said. "We all know Mr. Trump is a little quicker on his feet than Mrs. Clinton."
    The group met for close to an hour at the Republican National Committee headquarters and discussed the Trump campaign's plan for battleground states as well, but the debate prep stood out in the meeting led by top Trump advisers.
    Collins, the first congressman to endorse Trump and an early leader of efforts to rally highly reluctant House Republicans to Trump's side, said that he will be flying to New York Monday to help the Trump campaign after the debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the media spin room.
    "Donald Trump knows that Monday night is absolutely critical," he said. "And I think with that in the back of his mind, I'm confident we'll see presidential Trump Monday night."
    Shortly after Collins talked Thursday, the Trump campaign sent out a debate prep survey to supporters, asking them what issues he should focus, whether he should attack Clinton's policies or defend his own and more.
    "Do you think Trump should refer to Hillary as 'Crooked Hillary' on stage?" Trump asked, in question #4 of the 30-question survey.
    Questions about Trump's use of charitable donations to pay off personal legal debts have hounded him this week, but Collins dismissed them and tried to put the focus back on the Clinton Foundation, which has been a source of consternation across the aisle.
    "I'm sure there will be these kinds of volleys, we'll hear more about, but the fact of the matter is Trump's Foundation made donations to not-for-profit, 501(c)3s -- that's what foundations do. And I think the more important question, or issue is there's no Trump family members being paid by the foundation," Collins said. "It's not a patronage pit like the Clinton Foundation is."
    Collins said Trump's Hill supporters also got an update on the battleground plans, with just six weeks left in the race, and said they are confident Trump has multiple paths to the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
    "There are six different ways for him to get to 269, he's right now leading in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire, that takes him to 269, he might win one in Maine, there's 270, he might lose one in Nebraska, he's back to 269," he said. Collins cited other states in play -- Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia -- that could tip the balance to Trump.
    The focus now, he said, has turned from rallying conservatives to winning over independent and undecided voters.
    "It's all about the undecideds, they don't like Hillary Clinton, they don't like her with her character flaws, they haven't warmed up to President Trump and that's where the debate is going to be so critical Monday night for President Trump to address the nation for all those people who want no part of Hillary Clinton."