It’s Trump v Clinton in the final round of three debates tonight at 6 pm (PDT) in Las Vegas with Fox News’s Chris Wallace moderating. It’s no secret that Trump must strike hard and strike fast with his best performance to trim the lead of Hillary Clinton.
What can the predicted 50 million viewers watch for?
1. The first big question is will they shake hands. In the second debate they walked to the front of the stage, smiled and returned to their respective podiums without the traditional debate handshake.
2. What does Trump have in his bag of attack themes that will hit home with the TV audience? There is little doubt he will unload on his Democratic rival with everything he has.
He needs a campaign-altering moment or two if he’s going to change the trajectory of the race. Something to the effect of Ronald Reagan’s quip to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 debate when he smiled shook his head and said, “There you go again.” It was a game-changer and Carter’s campaign staff knew instantly it changed the entire mood of the electorate.
3. How will Hillary play the debate? Will she play it safe or go in for the kill? Her supporters were frustrated in the last debate she didn’t go further in her responses to Trump’s relentless attacks.
Hillary has an opportunity to expand the map into traditionally red states like Alaska, Georgia, Utah and Arizona. The pressure will be on Clinton to win but also to deliver for down-ballot Democrats as they play for seats that seemed out of reach not long ago.
The WikiLeaks email dump revealed what insiders have long known: Clinton’s inner circle and campaign team are cautious to a fault.
4. What about a Fox News moderator in charge of the final debate? Chris Wallace is widely known as the best of the three moderators thus far in the three debates.
Trump and many conservatives believe the moderators were on Clinton’s side in the first two debates. The Trump camp is hopeful that Wallace will make Hillary’s 90-minutes as miserable as possible with questions the other three liberal moderators skipped over almost completely.
Expect him to ask Clinton about an email exchange, revealed by WikiLeaks, in which one of her top aides disparaged Catholicism and Christianity. There will also be detailed questions about the Clinton Foundation and the “pay to play” corruption during Hillary’s four-years as secretary of State. Those questions were not asked or barely mentioned in the first two debates. That will make for a tough night for Hillary.
5. The closing comments could be the crucial moments of the debate. Trump must find a way to speak directly to the American people. He desperately needs to stay on the primary message of his campaign; “Make America great again.” This is the last chance Trump has with a national audience raptured in what he has to say. Fifty million people, many of whom will vote November 8th, 19 days from today will hang on his every word.
For Trump, it’s the best shot for a game-changing moment. For Clinton, it’s an opportunity to seal the deal.
Will the billionaire mogul come across as the change America is desperate for, or a reckless danger that will burn the system to the ground? Trump must convince voters that he can be trusted as a leader. Hillary faces the identical dilemma. She is viewed as an untrustworthy and opportunistic career politician, a considerable liability in the year of the outsider.