WATCH: Monday marks the first of three presidential debates and it could be the most watched of all time. Many analysts believe viewership could rival the Super Bowl. Jackson Proskow reports.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will share a stage Monday night for the first presidential debate of the 2016 U.S. election.
Clinton, the democratic nominee for president, and Trump, the republican nominee, will take the stage at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York at 9 p.m. ET Monday and face each other and moderator Lester Holt for 90 minutes, without commercial interruption.
The debate, which will be live-streamed on AM980.ca, will be divided into six segments of about 15 minutes each. Each candidate will have 15 minutes to respond to a question before debating the opponent.
The topics of the debate include “America’s direction,” “Achieving Prosperity,” and “Securing America,” the Commission on Presidential Debates said last week. And the race is getting closer. A CNN poll released Monday morning shows a tight race (Trump 42 per cent/Clinton 41 per cent) in both Pennsylvania and Colorado, two key battlegrounds.
Monday’s debate is expected to draw Super Bowl-esque audiences and will be the first time Clinton and Trump share a stage and come face-to-face. Some pundits have pondered whether Trump, whose blustering style worked during the primaries, will come across as presidential when he debates Clinton. He’s reportedly avoided holding mock debates against a faux-Hillary.
And while Clinton does have extensive experience debating on the national stage – including several debates with Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders in 2016 – this will be her first presidential-level debate against a republican candidate.
Both democratic and republican camps are hoping their candidate can convince voters during Monday’s debate to either vote for them, or not vote for the other party.
“While Trump’s base isn’t necessarily that big, they are excited about it,” said Fanshawe College Political Science professor Matt Farrell on AM980’s The Craig Needles Show Monday. “They’re going to show up to vote. I think that’s where Hillary is struggling. People are either indifferent to her, or are downright hostile. She’s got to try and do something to get her supporters excited enough that they’re going to come out in droves on Election Day.”
Farrell adds it will be interesting to see what Clinton’s debate strategy will be. Clinton has reportedly spent hours studying Trump’s style, taking notes from opposition research memos and watching highlight reels.
“In her debate prep, there’s some speculation that they’ve been trying different things. Rapid-fire responses, off-topic responses, you really have no idea what Trump’s going to do,” Farrell said. “In terms of her own limitations, the message she’s trying to project, how do you even begin to prepare? How do you set goals for yourself and how do you strategize?”
“Hillary has recognized that she has a lot of work to do to earn people’s trust,” Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager told The Associated Press. “We think this debate is a fantastic opportunity for her to present not just what she is going to do to make a difference in people’s lives, but she actually has a long history of getting this done.”
Trump, meanwhile, spent Sunday meeting with insiders over “cheeseburgers and soda” to discuss possible talking points.
“I believe you can prep too much for these things,” the billionaire businessman told the New York Times in late August.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Trump’s ability to speak “a language that people out there can understand” will help him during the debate. “So I think that he’s going to have a good night,” he said.
Should moderators be fact checkers?
One of the big concerns going into Monday night’s debate is whether moderator Lester Holt will be checking Trump and Clinton’s statements.
The NBC Nightly News anchor has a lot of pressure riding on him after colleague Matt Lauer came under fire for soft-balling the Commander-in-Chief forum at the beginning of the month.
But is it his job to ensure the candidates are telling the truth? It depends on who you ask.
For one, Clinton’s campaign is calling for Holt to keep Trump in check, with campaign manager Robby Mook telling CBS This Morning that his team is “concerned that Donald Trump may lie, he may throw misinformation out there, and that Hillary will have to spend all of her time trying to correct the record rather than talking about the things she wants to accomplish.”
While Holt has been silent on how he is preparing to lead the debate today, two NBC staffers said that he will be actively participating during the debate. “Lester is not going to be a potted plant,” one of them told CNN.
But Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, is slated to moderate the second presidential debate in October and believes it’s not his role to be a “truth squad.”
“That’s not my job,” he told MediaBuzz at the beginning of the month. “It’s up to the other person to catch them on that. I certainly am going to try to maintain some reasonable semblance of equal time. If one of them is filibustering, I’m going to try to break in respectfully and give the other person a chance to talk.”
Wallace said his job is to be a referee between the candidates, not a participant. “If it succeeds when it’s over, people will say, you did a great job. I don’t even remember you ever even being on the stage.”
Trump agrees. He said during a phone interview on Fox & Friends Thursday that Holt should let him and Clinton “argue it out.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates, which is hosting Monday’s event, did not reply to a request for comment.
(With files from James Armstrong and Rebecca Joseph of Global News)