The Presidential Debate: What to Watch | The American Word

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The Presidential Debate: What to Watch

Matt Goldan | 9/26/16 2:40pm
| Updated 9/26/16 2:40pm

Dan Kilbridge / American Word Magazine

On Monday night, the long wait will be over for political junkies, undecided voters and anyone with a stake in the upcoming election. The American public will finally see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump together onstage at the first presidential debate. With two well-known candidates running highly scrutinized campaigns that have received wall-to-wall TV coverage and mountains of social media attention, it should come as no surprise that this is one of the most anticipated debates in history. In a quote to the New Yorker, Democratic strategist Paul Begala described the debate as “bigger than the moon landing, the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the latest royal wedding!” While that might be an exaggeration, the word among TV executives is that this debate is expected to garner between 80 and 100 million viewers, which would almost definitely eclipse the 80.6 million viewer record for a debate set by the Carter-Reagan debate in 1980.

American University students can attend the 2016 Presidential Debate Watch Party in McKinley, which will include pizza and a Q&A with SOC professors Jane Hall and Molly O’Rourke at the end of the night’s events. The debate itself will be held at Hofstra University with NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt moderating. It is slated to begin at 9 p.m. EST on all the major networks and news channels.

With all of this in mind, here are some things to watch for in the debate:

How Will The Candidates Respond to Terror Attacks, Charlotte Protests?

The first debate could not come at a better time, as the last week has seen everything from terrorist attacks in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota to violent protests in Charlotte over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Trump and Clinton have made statements in interviews and social media posts responding to the issues, but during the debate, both will have an opportunity to reach their widest audiences yet and lay out how they would lead the country in times of turmoil and crisis.

What Kind of Moderator is Lester Holt?

After NBC’s Presidential Forum in New York City a few weeks ago, in which both candidates answered questions on stage separately, moderator Matt Lauer was heavily criticized for a number of reasons. These include not holding Trump accountable for false statements and spending too much time on Clinton’s email scandal. The specific topics and questions of Monday’s debate have not been disclosed, but there will be a lot of attention on how Lester Holt manages the discourse between the candidates. A lot can rest on how involved he chooses to be in maintaining the rules of the debate and fact-checking the candidates’ answers.

How Will Hillary Address Her Health And The Email Scandal?

Through the entirety of her campaign, Clinton has had to answer a lot of tough questions about her email scandal and more recently, her health. But at no point will her answers be more critical than during this first debate. She likely won’t be able to put these weak points of her campaign to rest with one good answer, but failing to come up with a strong way of addressing these issues will draw a lot of attention on her, which goes against her recent campaign strategy of putting the spotlight on Trump’s weaknesses.

Which Donald Trump Will Show Up on Monday Night?

Trump’s candidacy to this point has been defined by two completely different styles of campaigning. One style has been marked by off-the-cuff speeches, controversial quotes and a willingness to ridicule or attack his opponents. From saying he could shoot someone on a crowded street and not lose votes to stating that Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama, most Americans are well-acquainted with this side of Trump that doesn’t shy away from aggressive stances and stirring up controversy. Recently, Trump has been more reserved and seems to be presenting himself in a conventionally “presidential” way, reading from teleprompters rather than improvising, and trading his conversational style of addressing the crowd for more policy-focused speeches. Hillary Clinton’s camp has reportedly been preparing for both the “mild” and “wild” styles of Trump in her debate preparation, but Trump himself has been very quiet about how he is approaching the event. Regardless, the entire flow of the debate could depend on whether Trump chooses to go on the offensive against Hillary or takes a step back and sticks to his script.