Trump, Clinton ready for another showdown in third debate

Trump, Clinton ready for another showdown in third debate
October 19 17:03 2016

Las Vegas is due to witness its most surreal showdown since Mike Tyson repeatedly bit Evander Holyfield’s ear in the middle of a heavyweight boxing match, as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton square off in the third and final debate before the presidential election.

For Trump, Wednesday night’s debate may be the last opportunity to salvage the dwindling support that in recent weeks has seemingly placed the election increasingly out of the Republican nominee’s reach.

 The encounter at the University of Las Vegas comes as both campaigns are beset by controversy in the final stretch of the most unusual presidential campaign in modern history.

Clinton has been forced to contend with the illegal hacking of her campaign chairman’s emails, leaked in tranches by WikiLeaks in what the US government has described as the work of Russian intelligence.

Trump has faced even greater obstacles, stemming from an unearthed tape in which he boasted of groping women without their consent that prompted a number of women to come forward with accusations of sexual assault against the real estate mogul over a nearly three-decade period.

The debate, moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, will focus on six topics: debt and entitlements, immigration, economy, the supreme court, foreign hotspots and fitness to be president. But as in the last two debates between Trump and Clinton, policy is expected to take a back seat to the unpredictable behaviour associated with Trump.

The former reality TV star, who has spent the past week darkly warning of voter fraud, has one more chance to try to staunch his leaking support in the polls.

Polling aggregator Real Clear Politics shows Clinton with an average lead of almost seven points in recent polls, a lead comparable to that of Barack Obama over John McCain at a similar point in the 2008 election. Even deeply Republican states such as Alaska, Utah and Texas are within the margin of error in some surveys and the Clinton campaign, buoyed by its momentum, is now investing in conservative battlegrounds that include Arizona, Indiana and Missouri.

Clinton has maintained a tradition of burying herself in debate preparation in recent days, thus keeping a lighter footprint on the campaign trail. Trump, by contrast, has been notoriously averse to readying himself for the debates and has suffered through two below par performances.

Even so, the Republican nominee mocked Clinton at a Colorado rally on Tuesday as “resting”.

“It’s lying down and going to sleep,” Trump said, taking another veiled jab at Clinton’s health despite records disclosed by the former secretary of state last month showing no significant medical issues.

Clinton’s campaign said her focus would remain on policy in the debate regardless of Trump’s efforts to rattle her with criticisms intended for a base that routinely engages in chants of “Lock her up” at his rallies.

“What we have seen is that when she does do that, the character of Hillary Clinton that’s revealed to voters is someone that is quite capable of standing up to him and defending American values and reaffirming them,” Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for Clinton’s campaign, told reporters on Tuesday.

 

“We know that [Trump] thought that strategy of scorched earth would depress our vote but, if anything, we have found that it’s helped to motivate our voters.”

Trump, having shown himself to be lacking in substance on the issues, will have to rely on his improvisational style to carry him through the 90-minute encounter. But Wednesday night will mark the first time Trump will be questioned before a national audience of this scale about the sexual assault allegations against him, as well as his baseless claims of voter fraud to assert that the election is “rigged”.

Several high-profile Republicans have refuted Trump’s claim of illicit activity at the ballot box. Palmieri did not say if Clinton would address the matter at the debate, stating instead that the campaign was “confident in the election”.

“We understand the strategy that he is trying to do to explain his loss and also to try to deter voters,” she said, “[but] we believe that it’s going to be easier to vote than ever before.”

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The stage is set for the third and final presidential debate . Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

While most of those on the Las Vegas Strip were busy milling between slot machines and Blackjack tables on the eve of the debate, many acknowledged the gambling would come to a halt on Wednesday evening. The election, several people said, was simply too captivating.

Javier Solano, of Yuma, Arizona, said he was on holiday but would not miss the final event. “I don’t know what to expect from Trump,” he said, “but he isn’t a candidate fit to be president.”

Solano, who said he was voting for Clinton, had some advice for Trump’s supporters: “You can’t just be angry. You have to make the right choice, thinking not just about what affects you but what affects everyone.”

Joe Jessome, of Ontario, Canada, was in town for a conference but also planned to watch the debate. Jessome, who said his American wife and two children planned to cast their ballots for Trump, expects a more “balanced” debate under the helm of Fox News.

 

“I think the moderators are really biased toward the Democrats and Hillary Clinton,” he said. “[Although] Donald Trump speaks before he thinks a lot of the time and made lewd comments 11 years ago … it’s more about the economy and what’s going on in the world. Hillary Clinton, as far as I’m concerned, is ‘Crooked Hillary’.”

Brandon Davis, a Trump supporter from California, agreed. “Everyone’s been against him from the beginning,” he said, while noting Clinton had “a lot of baggage”.

While the debates have been marked by a bitterness bordering on contempt, Clinton and Trump will meet again at a decidedly more low-key venue on Thursday.

Both candidates are scheduled to attend the Alfred E Smith dinner, an annual fundraiser for Catholic charities in New York, less than 24 hours after they share the debate stage. The two will sit on either side of Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the white tie gala.

Guardian UK