The final round for Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump will unfold in Las Vegas, a city known for high-stakes wagers.
The third of three presidential debates will be the last chance for either candidate to deliver a knockout blow in front of a large prime-time audience before the Nov. 8 election.
Wednesday’s 90-minute debate at UNLV, if it’s anything like the first two, will be a no-holds-barred event that takes the definition of political blood sport to a new level.
It will give Trump, the Republican nominee, a chance to try turning around his political fortunes, particularly in key battleground states such as Nevada.
It will give Clinton, the Democratic nominee, a chance to further solidify her lead in national polls.
RAUCOUS, WILD EXPECTATIONS
In the second debate, Trump called Clinton the “devil” and warned that a Trump-led White House could lead to her going to jail. Clinton supporters expect more of the same Wednesday.
“The first two debates were just warm-ups for what might be the most raucous and wild debate in American history,” said Jake Thompson, an associate professor and debate coach at UNLV.
Thompson said Trump didn’t appear prepared in the first two debates, and Clinton “faces a very difficult challenge in debating Donald Trump in that he’s an unpredictable candidate to debate against.”
Trump will enter the stage without the support of some prominent GOP leaders who have distanced themselves from the real estate mogul.
“He has adopted a scorched-earth strategy,” said Erik Hertzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno. “Unrepentant, in your face, willing to take on anybody, and that includes the elected GOP leadership. He’s gone big-time after (House Speaker) Paul Ryan and the Republican establishment.
“I think he’ll come out guns blazing against Bill Clinton and his infidelity,” Herzik said. “I don’t think that will be very effective.”
It’s an approach that endears Trump to his base of support but runs the risk of alienating undecided voters in Nevada and across the nation, political observers say.
“‘I’m going to lock you up’ is an applause line for his base,” Herzik said, referring to Trump’s warning to Clinton that she risks jail if he’s elected. “But for many that watch, this includes Republicans and independents and Democrats, it’s like wait a minute, that’s what third-world countries do.”
Trump’s supporters are confident the debate can showcase their candidate favorably.
Michael McDonald, chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, said the debate moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, will ensure the debate is fair.
“There’s a lot at stake here in Nevada,” McDonald said. “I think that both candidates will be at the top of their game. I know for a fact Mr. Trump is preparing.”
McDonald said Trump can prevail in a debate that’s focused on issues, such as national security and bringing jobs to the U.S. rather than on tabloid-style news.
“I think when you get down to it, you either have an intelligent debate or you have a National Enquirer debate,” McDonald said, invoking the name of a tabloid known for salacious news stories.
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