Well the time has finally come. With just a mere three weeks to go before Election Day, tonight will herald the third and final debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. If you’re expecting something groundbreaking to occur during at 9 pm tonight, think again. It’s highly unlikely that anything new will come from this final exercise in political discourse, but nonetheless all the top political news sources have presented predictions of what viewers should be looking for tonight. First things first, tonight’s debate will be the first of this series to be moderated by a Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace, so expect questions to come from that viewpoint (although as Bill O’Reilly claims in this interview with Stephen Colbert, “he’s not going to brook any nonsense, he’ll cut the nonsense out real fast”).
In fact, O’Reilly had some intriguing advice for the two candidates on how to win this last showdown: ignore Trump for Hillary, and stop whining for Donald (pretty appropriate advice for Trump, who is being criticized for calling the American election system “rigged,” a statement which Politifact has classified as a ‘pants on fire’ lie).
According to the New York Times “First Draft” newsletter, they will be watching for these three key indicators to come up, among others:
- Will Trump try to salvage his brand name?
- Can Clinton find the right “tone”?
- Is Trump going to throw the GOP under the bus?
The first point is a good one to bring up, because most media outlets and especially late night shows (which we can all agree have become an essential part of the political coverage in America – but that’s another topic for another time) have viewed Clinton’s win in November as inevitable in the wake of these recent Trump campaign scandals, which means that come November 9, Mr. Trump will have to go back to his day job and that may be a bit difficult to do now that he has become such a controversial, inflammatory and downright infamous public figure. I saw a fascinating PBS Frontline documentary just a little while back called “The Choice 2016” which took an in-depth look at the lives and careers of both candidates, and one of they key points they made about Donald Trump’s career in particular was that it was the Trump name brand that ended up saving the Trump empire in the face of bankruptcy and poor business decisions. This was the reason Trump became a reality television star with “The Apprentice” in the first place, primarily to save his public image and market his name in a way that would bring revenue back to the ailing corporation (see some examples of his cameos as “Donald Trump” below):
Yet now that Trump’s name has become more synonymous with extreme right-wing politics, that celebrity image might not be recoverable now that Trump is seen by the public less as a businessman and more as a political operative.
As for the other two factors mentioned, I don’t think it will come as a shock to anyone if Hillary tries to make herself appear sympathetic, or Trump openly bashes the party that nominated him, because the candidates have already been documented doing both of those behaviors in the past few weeks.
Politico also released a list of five things to look out for in the debate that are worth mentioning:
- Clinton on the defense
- How low will Trump stoop?
- Chris Wallace being tougher on Trump than Clinton (go figure, but as they explain it:”the “Fox Sunday” host will take it easy on Clinton to prove he’s not in the Murdoch tank for Trump”)
- No Roger Ailes to keep Trump in line
- Clinton pointing out Trump would be “a threat to American democracy”
Well with all that to consider, at the very least we can be certain that tonight’s debate will be the last ditch attempt for both candidates to reach those final straggling undecideds, and will be the last time they are able to seriously show on a public stage who is clearly the only valid choice for president.