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Showdown at Eight O’Clock

A primer on tonight’s first Clinton-Trump debate.

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The stage is set for Monday night's presidential debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Hofstra University on September 26 in Hempstead, New York.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

With 45 days left until the general election, and early voting already underway in several states, polls show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump among national voters by just two points, and as Nate Silver notes, at FiveThirtyEight, uncertainty abounds about how well her campaign will perform in the homestretch. Anxiety, too: though Clinton has apparently been preparing for the debates, and Trump has not, the fact that she is expected to outperform him raises the question of whether he can “win” the debate simply by outperforming the unusually low expectations people have for him.

The first presidential debate—from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York—starts at 8 p.m. central time tonight, and will run for 90 minutes, without commercial breaks. The Verge has gathered a list of online viewing options, and I’d encourage those of you who are watching to feel free to discuss proceedings in the comments section of this post, or on Twitter, where I’ll be chiming in from time to time. And in the meantime, for those of you who are counting down the minutes until showtime, I’d recommend Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s interview with Mark Cuban, who will be attending the debate as a guest of the Clinton campaign, on why he initially supported Trump and came to change his mind. He’s not the only voter to have traveled such an arc this year, I suspect, but he’s the first I’ve seen discuss it at such length, and his reasoning strikes me as well-considered. After reading the piece, I’m hard-pressed to call Cuban “deplorable,” even if he is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

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  • John Bernard Books

    How will Hillary keep Trump from discussing the issues? She can’t run on her accomplishments so she has to make the debate about style vs substance.
    Her team has pressured moderator Holt to steer the debate in that direction.
    No matter what she tries she will lose big as there is simply no substance there.
    Trump will win yyyyyyyuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggggggge!

  • Shelly H.

    I will try to watch it, but it really will depend on whether or not I can tolerate listening to Trump drone on about how great he is, how I just have to believe him, yada, yada, yada. I may need to employ judicious use of the mute button.

    • BCinBCS

      Hey Shel, I’m going to a debate watching party. We’re going to employ judicious amounts of alcohol. 😉

      • Shelly H.

        Yeah I’m trying to decide between bingo or drinking…

        • BCinBCS

          Shiner Bock here.

          • Beerman

            BC, not a bad choice, I’ve sold a few cases of that fine product!

  • donuthin2

    or unless it is like the lady in Trump camp who was just being interviewed who never shut her mouth long enough to hear the question. She talked over the guy from the get go, never answering any part of a question but countering with something that Clinton did that was totally irrelevant to the question. What a horrible way to select a president. It will be all about form and little about substance.

    • Sam Jacinto

      I think you refer to Omorosa talking to Chris Hayes. He was asking about birtherism and she talked over him about everything but.

      • donuthin2

        Yes, it was. Thanks.

  • donuthin2

    I think the moderator should have three assistant moderators with mike switches. If any two turn off the mike of a candidate, it goes off and he is left talking to himself. That would be when he goes off topic, talks over the person who was asked the question, talks longer than his time, or otherwise distracts from an orderly, informative debate.

    • BCinBCS

      Actually donuthin, that’s not a bad suggestion.

    • BCinBCS

      I was annoyed at Trump speaking well beyond his allotted time but I was more disturbed by his interruptions of Hillary and his trying to speak over her when it was her turn to comment. Besides making it nearly impossible to understand either of them on the TV when both are talking at the same time, I also consider it rude.

      • Erica Grieder

        Agreed. It also (in my assessment) points to a problem with impulse control–I mean, surely someone on his team would have thought to advise him against doing exactly that.

        • Sacagewea

          He would ignore that advice.

      • Sacagewea

        Were they of a Rick Lazio level in your opinion?

        • BCinBCS

          I heard about but did not see Lazio’s Senate debate with Hillary so I cannot say.

          Even though Trump interrupted a number of times, it was his going over his allotted time by quite a bit that bothered me the most.

          His interruptions resulted in what I consider the biggest mistake by either candidate. Hillary was bringing up the possibility that Trump wouldn’t release his taxes because it might show that he paid no income tax. He couldn’t resist blurting out: “That makes me smart.”, thus confirming that he doesn’t pay income tax. It bothers me to know that I am paying taxes to support someone who should easily be supporting himself.

  • Shelly H.

    Trump is an idiot. OMFG I can’t even.

  • John Bernard Books

    HHHHUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGEEEEEE Trump win. The only thing Hillary did well she by attacking Trump repeatedly often with lies, she kept him away from her emails.
    Trump on the other hand was charming, gracious and very much a gentleman.

  • John Bernard Books

    One of the biggest lies by Hillary was crime is down….
    “Homicides in the United States went up by more than 10 percent in 2015 over the year before, while violent crime increased by nearly 4 percent in the same period, according to new statistics released Monday by the FBI.”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/09/26/violent-crime-and-murders-both-went-up-in-2015-fbi-says/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories-2_wonk-fbi-crime-630pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.b36935fa46ed

    Come on Lester do your job…he should have corrected her.

  • Sam Jacinto

    I may have to reconsider Mr T. I did not realize that it was he who was responsible for NATO veering into counter-terrorism, or forcing Obama to show his birth certificate, or being first to call terrorism on NY/NJ, or starting his company with only a small parental loan, or taking advantage of bankruptcy and tax laws like any good businessman, or forcing Hillary to change her mind on TPP, or ending the birther thing, or being the Babe Ruth of debate, among so many other things. The man is definitely a change agent. His favorite thing to change is reality.

    • Shelly H.

      iknowrite?

  • donuthin2

    I would be that by morning they will be giving poor Lester hell for being unfair him. I thought the moderator did a decent job.

    • Shelly H.

      Yep.

  • WUSRPH

    Was there a winner? Any numbers from the overnight polls?

  • BCinBCS

    I never realized that HRC was such a poor debater. I expected Trump to be all over the place with his answers and he was but I never expected nearly the same from Hillary.

    Couldn’t they hire someone to teach her to attack one point at a time, succinctly? Then stop. Then go on to the next point?

    • WUSRPH

      She has never been that good at public speaking. Policy wonks often are not.

    • Sacagewea

      She’s a great debater, but not an animated public speaker. Mucho importante . . .

  • WUSRPH

    Well, we got the answer to one question. He definitely out lied her or, as JJ would prefer to call it, out exaggeated her.

    • BCinBCS

      The NY Times aggregated a bunch (didn’t count, but well over a dozen) of short debate reviews. They can be found here:

      http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/opinion/clinton-trump-first-debate-election-2016/missed-opportunities

      The review that I agreed with the most (of the ones that I read) was the first one by Arthur C. Brooks which said, in part:

      It only took 90 minutes, but Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump fell into a rut that reinforced both of their stereotypes. On most issues, Mrs. Clinton relaxed into wonkery – especially on national security – and delivered wooden lines about eagerly awaiting fact-checks. Mr. Trump’s reactions were a mix of favored rally themes and stream of consciousness boasts, and he interrupted with tangents and confusing non sequiturs, often in praise of himself.

    • John Bernard Books

      Especially when she went all Rosie on him…..hahaha omg!

  • John Bernard Books

    Trump grilled but Hillary didn’t get one tough question from Lester?
    “At tonight’s debate, Donald Trump faced off not just against Hillary Clinton, but against moderator Lester Holt.

    The game of two-on-one saw Holt ask no questions about:

    Hillary’s emails
    Benghazi
    The Clinton Foundation
    While ignoring these issues, Holt grilled Trump on stop-and-frisk, the birther story, his comments about women, his many bankruptcies, why he hasn’t released his tax returns — and a host of other issues the media sees as unfriendly to the Republican candidate.”
    http://heatst.com/politics/lester-holt-the-third-debater/

    Its over folks Hillary is that bad

  • Shelly H.

    Favorite moments from the debate and favorite tweets?

    Mine is when she categorically outlined his ridiculous beliefs about foreign policy, his asking Russia to hack us and finished with that is why over 50 foreign policy experts from previous republican administrations have endorsed me for President. BOOM.

    Trump’s rely sounded like any petulant six year old’s who can’t stand being upstaged “I am great on foreign policy I tell you. I am so great that” pauses to pull number out of his a$$ “300 admirals have endorsed me. Homeland security loves me I have 300 admirals and generals. 300 admirals and generals have endorsed me. I tell you something else I have been endorsed by ICE….”

    I about busted a gut laughing at that one. my children could argue better than that when they were little.

    As for tweets – just about anything about his sniffles pure comedic gold.

    • BCinBCS

      Shel, one of the complaints that Trump Tweets was about the microphone. He claimed that there was a problem with it to which someone replied: “There actually *was* a serious problem with Trump’s mic[rophone]: He was speaking into it.”

    • Sacagewea

      The water consumption and shortness of breath were signs that he might be ill – Type II diabetes?

  • donuthin2

    Earlier, when the Republican primary was down to Cruz, Rubio and Trump I remember thinking that none of the three were acceptable and the best outcome would be Trump as he would be the easiest to defeat. If either of the other two candidates had been on stage with Hillary last night, she would have been ripped apart. But Trump was totally incapable of seizing the moment and she had a relatively easy time of it.

    We need to take a close look at ourselves, both democrats and republicans, see what got us to this place.

    • Rules of Blazon

      I’m a Democrat, and all I need to do is celebrate, because we’re crushing it! WOO HOO!

      • Sacagewea

        Remind me to tell you sometime the five stages of a project. The first one is “wild enthusiasm.”

        • Rules of Blazon

          I don’t do “stages,” yo.

  • Rules of Blazon

    She CRUSHED him. It was a complete, top-to-bottom ass-kicking. He absolutely sucked, and Hillary was fantastic. There’s really nothing else to say about it. I loved every minute of it- most fun I’ve had watching a debate in a very long time, and the teabagger/Trumpkin butthurt this morning – on full display pretty much everywhere on the internetzzz- is delightful. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

    • Beerman

      Rules, you are right, she literally castrated Mr. Trump. It was the worse performance ever in a Presidential debate. It is unbelievable that someone as thin-skinned as Trump won the Republican primaries, and is actually being consider for the Presidency of the United States.

      And, his weak excuse this morning is the mic and a bias moderator. AMAZING…AMAZING

      The stark contrast between the candidates was very evident on that stage…Trump’s ego and bluster literally blew-up in front of an estimated 100 million people.

      • Rules of Blazon

        It was so great. I’m really tempted to go back and watch it again.

        • Sacagewea

          Once was enough for me.

  • WUSRPH

    Wonder what JJ thinks about Trump’s performance? Even most “conservative” commentators give him bad marks especially for his lack of preperation. You can not just rely onyour inate greatness. But of course all those who do not praise him are tools of the K Street establishment.

    • John Johnson

      I think he won, and we will soon see if voters agree with me.

      • WUSRPH

        Hope is all you have .

    • Sacagewea

      Where ARE the two pros from Dover? Hope they’ve not committed an irrevocable act.

      • Sacagewea

        “This loser is blocked.”

  • John Bernard Books

    All hillary won was the audition for the View…….

  • Sacagewea

    She baited him like a boss, then she ate his lunch. It was beautiful to watch. Lester was AWOL for about the first 30 minutes, then got in the game.

    It shows what happens when a hard-working, well-trained, and well-organized professional meets a dilittente.

  • John Bernard Books