Clinton, Trump To Square Off In First US Presidential Debate
Hillary Clinton (left) and Donald Trump. (Photo altered by <b>The Quint</b>)
Hillary Clinton (left) and Donald Trump. (Photo altered by The Quint)

Clinton, Trump To Square Off In First US Presidential Debate

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump will face off for the first time on Monday in a presidential debate that could rank as one of the most watched and highly anticipated political showdowns in US history.

The surprisingly tight race for the White House and the unpredictable clash in styles between well-known but polarizing foes has generated wide interest in the potentially pivotal encounter, which comes six weeks before the 8 November election.

The size of the audience is expected to be higher than the highest recorded viewership for presidential debates – 80 million for the 1980 encounter between Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan.

The 90-minute debate will begin at 9 pm (1 am GMT on Tuesday) at Hofstra University on New York’s Long Island. It is the first of three planned presidential debates.

Least-liked Candidates in White House History to go Head-to-Head

Both Trump and Clinton, who polls show are the least-liked White House candidates in modern history, hope to use the debate to erase some of those lingering voter doubts.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday showed half of America’s likely voters would rely on the debates to help them make their choice.

The volatile Trump, a businessman and former reality television star, will get a chance to show depth and steadiness, while the cautious Clinton will be able to try to connect directly with voters who do not trust her, strategists said.

But Trump, a political newcomer who has often shown more affinity for putdowns than policy, could benefit from lower expectations from voters.

The debate comes as polls show Clinton’s once sizable lead over Trump has evaporated amid more questions about her family foundation and her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Grudge Match

Clinton, 68, and Trump, 70, have regularly exchanged sharp insults, raising the prospect of a fiery grudge match.

Trump frequently chides Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” and has called for her jailing for the email controversy. Clinton condemns Trump as temperamentally unfit for the White House.

Trump dominated the crowded Republican debates with rapid-fire attacks on his rivals, but he has no experience in a one-on-one debate setting that requires more prolonged discussion of issues.

Clinton has experience of one-on-one debates with Barack Obama in 2008 and with US Senator Bernie Sanders earlier this year.

“Getting through a debate while maintaining your demeanour and not becoming unhinged should not be the standard,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters.

Gennifer Flowers Rumours

The Trump campaign put to rest on Sunday the prospect that he might invite Gennifer Flowers, who had an affair with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, to attend the debate.

After Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a Clinton supporter and vociferous critic of Trump, tweeted that he had a “front-row” seat to watch the Hofstra debate, Trump raised the possibility in a tweet of inviting Flowers to the debate.

But Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, told Fox News Sunday that Flowers would not attend the debate.

Donald Trump was using the tweet yesterday really to mock an effort by Hillary Clinton and her campaign to really distract attention from what the American people are going to be focused on tomorrow night, which is on the issues, on the choice that we face.
Mike Pence, Republican vice-presidentisal candidate

Year of Outsiders

The role of moderator Lester Holt of NBC News has also come under scrutiny ahead of the debate, with the Clinton campaign and her Democratic supporters urging him to correct Trump if he makes false claims.

Trump has also tried to influence Holt and the moderators of the other showdowns with Clinton, saying the candidates should be the ones to correct the record.

But in a year when outsiders like Trump and Sanders have made a mark, Trump’s best argument could be that he is a better agent of change than the former secretary of state and US senator from New York, said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative who is now chief strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce.

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