Two of the least popular candidates in recent history are set face off tonight in the first of four Presidential debates, airing tonight at 9pm eastern on pretty much every other channel – including but not limited to CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, Univision, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN. It will also be live streamed at debates.twitter.com.
According to at least one major poll, the two candidates are in a near dead heat (Hillary 46% Trump 44%) as GOP nominee Donald Trump appears to be closing what once was a significant gap.
Clinton’s lead has diminished after a strange episode caught on video and the resulting media frenzy debating and calling the status of the 68 year old’s health into question.
Trump, on the other hand, has attempted to reel in over the top rhetoric on social media and at rallies, resulting in less controversial headlines hogging up the news cycle.
Despite the unusually high unfavorable ratings for each candidate, 8 out of 10 voters still plan to watch the debate tonight. Clinton is the odds on favorite, 44% believe she’ll win while only 34% believe Trump will win.
During the GOP primary, Trump preferred campaigning to debate prep. He and many of his supporters believe it’s best to simply ‘let Trump be Trump’ and react largely off the cuff on stage.
The strategy has been successful so far, but tonight’s debate is the first time Trump will square off head to head. There will be no opportunity to sit back and let other candidates do the fighting for him, he will have to answer each charge – but if there’s one thing Trump’s never been, it’s at loss for words.
Trump didn’t conduct any mock debates but chose instead to go over several questions he may be asked. Former NYC Mayor and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani and led the preparations.
Trump has signaled that he wants to portray a more measured, presidential tone in the general election – but he also left the window open for his now infamous debate antics.
“I’m going to be very respectful of her” he said to Fox News, before adding a big ‘if’ to the equation:
“I think she deserves that and I’m going to be nice. And if she’s respectful of me, that’ll be nice. We’ll have something that I think people will respect as a debate but we’ll see where it all goes. You really never know exactly how it’s going to turn out and that’s why we going to have a lot of people watching,”
Meanwhile, Trump has set up a special social media feed for the debates that’s dedicated to ‘crooked Hillary’ – the nickname he himself coined in reference to Clinton.
There’s also been heavy debate online about the role of the moderators and whether or not they should ‘fact check’ the candidates.
NBC’s Lester Holt will moderate, and he’ll be under a heavy microscope as both sides are leery of fair treatment.
Candy Crowley caused major controversy back in 2012 when she seemingly saved the day for President Obama, bailing him out with information just as his opponent Mitt Romney was grilling Obama on his handling of the Benghazi attacks.
Moderators don’t typically interject to add, confirm or deny information, they simply ask questions and from there it’s up to the candidate to defend him or herself.
The 100 million viewer debate?
The most watched debate in the past 40 years was Carter vs. Reagan back in the 1980 election. The economy was in terrible shape and Americans were actually feeling the pain of hardship, gas lines, and more. Since 2004, debates have routinely eclipsed the 60 million viewer mark. A multitude of viewing options combined with at least one candidate who specializes in creating made-for-TV politics, means the conditions are favorable for a record setting night.
For more coverage on the debates, click HERE.