Following Pence's pounding of Kaine and Trump's trouncing of Clinton in the last two debates, the final showdown promises fireworks.
Trump's arsenal is full after two weeks of embarrassing documents from WikiLeaks and The FBI, and with the news cycle beginning to lose contact with his sexual harrassment allegations, Clinton (having gone dark for a week) will remain focused on temperament, temperament, temperament.. and the fact that Trump is not a woman.
Interestingly, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign has asked to change the setup of the pre-debate greetings on Wednesday night, The New York Times reports…
At the previous two debates, the spouses of both candidates have met to shake hands. But this time around, former President Bill Clinton and Melania Trump will enter the debate hall in a way that avoids having the families cross paths.
Two people with direct knowledge of the situation told the Times that the Clinton camp requested the change after the last debate after GOP nominee Donald Trump invited three women who’ve accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and fourth whose rapist Hillary Clinton was court-appointed to defend in 1975.
Here are five things that The Hill points out to watch for as the candidates square off beneath the neon lights of the nation’s gambling capital:
Will they shake hands?
In a sign of how much disdain the candidates have for one another, Trump and Clinton declined to shake hands as they took the stage at the start of their second debate. Instead, they greeted each other with a cold “hello,” then shuffled to within about 3 feet of one another as they turned to face the audience. Trump was just minutes removed from a press conference with three women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault or harassment and one whose rapist Hillary Clinton was court-appointed to defend in 1975. Meanwhile, Clinton was preparing to unload on Trump for his obscene remarks about groping women. The moment was satirized on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, in which Alec Baldwin’s Trump and Kate McKinnon’s Clinton circled each other like jiu jitsu fighters, extending their hands for a shake but recoiling before they touched. Advisers to both nominees are surely choreographing the opening moment to ensure their candidate doesn’t come off looking bad. That opening moment could be a sign of how nasty things will get.
Does Trump have any wild cards left?
It’s almost a given that Trump, the Republican nominee, will unload on his Democratic rival with everything he has. Women and independents have been fleeing Trump’s campaign, helping Clinton to open up a comfortable lead in recent national polls. The map of battleground states leans strongly in Clinton’s favor, making her the heavy favorite as the clock ticks down to the finish. Trump needs a campaign-altering moment or two if he’s going to change the trajectory of the race with less than three weeks to go before Election Day. The GOP nominee’s press conference with Bill Clinton’s accusers at the last debate was an attempt to rattle Hillary Clinton. It didn’t work.
Since then, Trump has thrown everything he has at Clinton, saying she would be jailed if he wins the White House and demanding they both take a drug test before the debate to see if performance-enhancing chemicals are keeping her competitive. Trump will have his pick of controversies to exploit on Wednesday night, aided by the WikiLeaks email dumps and the release of documents pertaining to the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s use of a personal email server while she was secretary of State. Does Trump have a new stunt or revelation up his sleeve? Will it matter?
Does Clinton play it safe or go for the kill?
Trump is on the ropes. Will Clinton go for the knockout blow on Wednesday night? Polls show that Clinton won the second debate, but some of her supporters were frustrated that she was not more aggressive in going after Trump, who limped in amid backlash over his lewd remarks about women and a civil war in the Republican Party over his candidacy. Clinton might view the debate as her opportunity to vanquish Trump and lay the groundwork for a governing mandate. Trump’s polling weakness has provided the Clinton campaign with an opportunity to expand the map into traditionally red states like Alaska, Georgia, Utah and Arizona. Control of the Senate is a toss-up, and if Trump’s free-fall continues, the Republican majority in the House might be in play, too. The pressure will be on for Clinton not to just win but also to deliver for down-ballot Democrats as they play for seats that seemed out of reach not long ago. That means rolling the dice with an aggressive debate, similar to the one her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), tried for in the vice presidential debate. It could mean hitting Trump where he’s weakest by bringing up his female accusers and crude remarks. But that could move against her by provoking Trump to go nuclear on the Clintons’ personal lives.
The aggressiveness backfired on Kaine, showing there is risk in such a strategy. And the WikiLeaks email dump revealed what insiders have long known: Clinton’s inner circle and campaign team are cautious to a fault. They may decide the best course of action is to duck into victory formation and run out the clock with a safe debate performance that seeks to avoid riling Trump.
Will the moderator make a difference?
Trump and many conservatives believe the moderators were on Clinton’s side in the first two debates. Veteran NBC newsman Lester Holt opened himself up to criticism for failing to ask Clinton about her private email server or foreign donations to her family’s charitable foundation. And Trump openly warred with the moderators at the second debate, accusing CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC News’s Martha Raddatz of allowing Clinton to speak past her allotted time and lashing out at them for cutting his attacks on Clinton short. Those attacks resonated among conservatives, even if Trump ended the last debate with slightly more speaking time than Clinton. Republicans are hopeful that Fox News’s Chris Wallace — who has a solid reputation as a nonpartisan journalist — will make Clinton’s life miserable. Wallace has said he won’t fact-check the candidates in real time — a practice that has been the focal point of fierce debate within reporting circles — leaving the candidates to pick their spots and make a convincing case for their version of the truth on their own. As an anchor at the conservative news outlet, Wallace is more likely to focus on issues that other media outlets are apt to gloss over. Expect him to ask Clinton about an email exchange, revealed by WikiLeaks, in which one of her top aides disparaged Catholicism and Christianity. The newly released documents pertaining to the investigation of Clinton’s personal server will surely lead to a question about Trump’s allegations of “pay-for-play” at the State Department. And the WikiLeaks dump also revealed Clinton’s support for “open borders,” her differing views in public and in private, and a trove of other data points that Fox News has covered with relish. Of course, Wallace was no patsy in the GOP primary debates, so Trump can expect the tough treatment will flow both ways.
What will their closing arguments be?
This is it. The third debate is the last time the candidates will be seen by this many people. The first two debates brought between 65 million and 80 million viewers each. For Trump, it’s the best shot for a game-changing moment. For Clinton, it’s an opportunity to seal the deal. Trump has signaled that he will make this a “change” election to the end. The question voters are struggling over is whether Trump will be a responsible agent of change or a reckless danger who will burn the system to the ground. So far, a strong majority of voters view him as the latter, with vast swaths of the electorate saying he is not commander in chief material. Trump must convince voter that he can be trusted as a leader. Clinton’s closing argument is similarly complicated. She is viewed as an untrustworthy and opportunistic career politician — a considerable liability in the year of the outsider. Still, recent polls show Clinton’s base is more energized than it once was, helping her to pull away from Trump. She will be looking to maintain that momentum by giving undecided voters a reason to vote for her, not just against Trump.
Which guests are they bringing?
News broke Tuesday night that Trump invited Malik Obama, President Obama’s Kenyan-born half-brother, to be one of his guests for Wednesday’s showdown. Also on Trump’s list is Patricia Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith. Smith spoke at the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer, said “I blame Hillary Clinton personally” for the death of her son in the 2012 attacks in Libya. Cited by CBS, campaign CEO Steve Bannon told CNN that Smith and Malik Obama are “just an appetizer,” and that Trump will have other guests who relate to the Clintons’ past.
One of them could be Leslie Millwee, a former Arkansas reporter who on Wednesday accused Bill Clinton of assaulting her in 1980: BuzzFeed reported that she is attending the debate. However, the Trump campaign would not confirm that Millwee was a guest of Trump’s.
Clinton’s guest list includes Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, a longtime Republican and former California gubernatorial candidate who endorsed Clinton earlier this year and has raised money on her behalf. Mark Cuban, the investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, will also be in attendance; Cuban also attended the first debate in September as a guest of Clinton’s. Also attending as Clinton’s guests are former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Clinton’s campaign announced Wednesday. Clinton’s other guests include Karla Ortiz, a woman from Nevada born to undocumented parents; Astrid Silva, a DREAMer and immigrant’s rights activist in Nevada; Ryan Moore, a man with a rare form of dwarfism known as spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia dwarfism; Ofelia Diaz Cardenas, a woman from Mexico who crossed the border illegally in 1999 and now has a work permit; and the mother and teacher of Pvt. Damian Lopez-Rodriguez, a man who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and was killed while awaiting U.S. citizenship.
* * *
Of course, for many there is a far simpler problem: it's the third debate and you still have no idea where your preferred candidate stands on a one given issue? Fear not: the following summary from Goldman breaks it all donw.
And given that the debate is in the gambling capital of America, WaPo reports a surge in wagers such as if Donald Trump says the word “rigged” five times or more during tonight’s debate, bookies will be paying out. Oddsmakers are even taking bets on whether the presidential candidates will shake hands.
So will we see First-Debate Trump or Second-Debate Trump? Live Feed…
* * *
Finally, given that the debate is taking place in Las Vegas, the drinking game to make it pallatable to many…
And keep score here…