OK, I’ll be the first to agree that the hype for tonight’s debate is off the charts. It’s being called the ‘debate of century’ or a ‘historical debate battle, or the “pivotal moment for Clinton and Trump.’
Most watched debate in history
Nevertheless, if you’re interested in American politics and the future direction of the country, then tonight’s debate is a big deal. It is expected to be the most-watched presidential debate in history with somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million folks glued to their TV screens starting at 9 pm EDT. It will be on all the major networks and cable news outlets. Facebook will be broadcasting the ABC News coverage through Facebook Live, and Twitter has partnered with Bloomberg TV for full coverage. No matter where you are or what you’re doing this evening, the debate will be hard to ignore.
Third party candidates will be watching
Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who many thought should also be on tonight’s stage, will be watching the debate. According to ABC News, Johnson and his running mate, Gov. Bill Weld will be live tweeting throughout the evening.
Govs. Johnson and Weld will be making themselves available to the media, watching the debate with great interest, and will be anxious to point out how a third voice, representing millions of independent voters disenfranchised by the Republican and Democrat parties, would better serve the American people. — Joe Hunter, campaign communications director
Green Party candidate Jill Stein plans to be protesting her exclusion from tonight's debate by holding a rally outside the debate hall. In 2012, Stein was arrested outside of Hofstra University when she attempted to enter the grounds during a debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Debate will play key role in election
That tonight’s debate will play a significant role in electing the next president is beyond debate.
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 34% of registered voters think the three presidential debates would be extremely or quite important in helping them decide whom to support for president. About 11% of voters are considered “debate persuadables”—that is, they think the debates are important and are either third-party voters or only loosely committed to either major-party candidate. — The Wall Street Journal
Judged more on demeanor than substance
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have a lot riding on their performance tonight. The audience will be judging the candidates not only on what they say but on how they say it. Clinton is likely to come better prepared on policy issues and has experience on her side. But, her biggest challenge for the evening will be to come across as someone who is likable and trustworthy. Donald Trump is likely to rely more on his instincts rather than a political playbook. His campaign has said that ‘Trump will be Trump’ but with a more presidential attitude. Trump’s challenge will be to convince the public that he has the temperament and self-discipline to be president.
The debate is going to be decided on body language, tone and temperament. It will all be about tone and demeanor and much less about substance. — Richard Himelfarb, political science professor at Hofstra University
Could determine outcome of election
The debate could prove critical to the campaigns of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein as well. If, after watching the debate a significant number of people feel that neither Trump nor Clinton is deserving of their vote, they may switch their support to one of the third-party candidates and drain votes from the major party candidates. While neither Johnson nor Stein has a realistic chance of winning the election, they could well determine the outcome.
The bottom line is that tonight’s debate is a ‘pretty big deal,’ and should prove both an informative and worthwhile investment of 90 minutes of your time this evening.