The second presidential debate is scheduled to begin at 9 pm ET (6 pm PT) tonight and comes just one month before the 2016 election. Events over the last 72 hours have rocked both campaigns, and what to expect at tonight’s debate is looking much different than it did earlier in the week.
Tonight’s debate will be moderated by Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC. The debate will be a ‘town hall’ format, which gives audience members the opportunity to ask questions of each candidate, while the moderators will ask other questions based on concerns raised on social media.
Trump’s videotape sure to come up
There is no doubt that one of the first questions asked will concern the controversy that erupted over the weekend regarding a recording that surfaced of Donald Trump making vulgar and demeaning comments about women during a TV show taping in 2005. In the past 36 hours, a number of Republicans have withdrawn their support of Trump. Many have called for Trump to withdraw from the ticket and allow Gov. Mike Pence to take over the top spot.
WikiLeaks released hacked emails
If Trump’s tape had not surfaced on Friday, a batch of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign that WikiLeaks released on Friday would probably have been the lead item in the debate. The leaked emails included excerpts from some of Clinton’s speeches for Goldman Sachs and other financial groups. Mrs. Clinton had refused to release the speeches during the primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders. However, the release of the Trump tape has overshadowed the leaked documents.
Mr. Trump responded forcefully on Saturday to calls that he withdraw from the race by saying, “I will never drop out of the race, will never let my supporters down!”
Trump also issued an apology on Saturday for what he stated in the videotape, but quickly pivoted to the attack:
I've said some foolish things, but there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday. — Donald Trump
Expected to attack Bill Clinton
Most observers expect Trump to repeat his apology and attempt to show contrition for his actions, and then quickly try to turn the focus to the infidelities of former President Bill Clinton and how Mrs. Clinton responded to the women who accused the former President.
It is a certainty that Trump will go down the only path that exists for him, which is try to frame this as a double-standard issue with regard to Bill Clinton. — Steve Schmidt, former campaign manager for John McCain
High stakes for Trump
For Donald Trump, tonight’s debate may represent his last chance to connect with undecided voters. The stakes are higher for Trump to do well at this evening’s debate than they are for Hillary Clinton. In the past two weeks, the momentum in the race had shifted towards Clinton and her campaign in now in a ‘do not screw things up’ mode.
At a minimum, tonight’s debate will be a remarkable piece of political theater that’s not to be missed.