Town hall debates can be good for Trump because they allow him to humanize his reactionary policies by attaching them to real humans and to real human pain. This moment from an Iowa town hall, in which Trump addresses (and sort of tries to comfort) a man whose son died from a heroin overdose is particularly notable:
The town hall event that Trump held on Thursday was billed as something of a tune-up after his disastrous first debate performance—i.e. practice before Sunday’s pivotal town hall debate with Hillary Clinton. But if Republicans hoped that Trump would get some actual practice (or even just stretch his legs), they were dead wrong. Thursday’s town hall event in New Hampshire was totally and utterly pointless, and was nothing like what he’ll face on Sunday.
For one thing, Trump didn’t get questions from actual people—instead they were all pre-approved by the campaign and all came from friendly (and bigoted) conservative talk show host Howie Carr. Over the course of the town hall, Trump answered planted questions about how he’ll fix the VA, what his favorite childhood memory is (really), and if he was really jealous of Mike Pence after the debate. Trump didn’t even do that well: He responded to the jealousy question by bashing John Harwood and John King, which wasn’t particularly reassuring.
In truth, the town hall was probably designed to be pointless, an exercise in grabbing empty calorie media coverage, which, 15 months in, is still the only thing that the Trump campaign really excels at.