Two-thirds of registered voters expect to watch the first Trump-Clinton debate, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. It is on track to become the most watched debate ever and might even get close to Super Bowl viewing numbers. The first Republican primary debate shattered records. 24 million people tuned in to watch the first Republican primary debate, the highest-rated primary debate in television history and bigger than the MLB World Series games.
Republican nominee Donald Trump knows how to make good TV and people want to see what he will do, which explains much of the interest. Instead of focusing only on the entertainment value of the debate, here are some things we should be watching for:
Will a question about women trip up Trump this time?
From “Woman Cards” being sold on her campaign website to a video showcasing little girls reading letters to Hillary Clinton encouraging her candidacy, Clinton has made the possibility of making history by becoming the first female president a key narrative of her campaign. She relies on this narrative to different extents depending on the circumstances.
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Women were an important constituency to President Barack Obama winning in the last presidential election. Obama won women by 11 points, and won single women, 40 percent of female voters, by 36 percent. It is no wonder Clinton offers many policies in the name of helping single working women.
Trump has struggled in previous debates when it comes to “women questions,” so expect some question that will hit on this from the moderator or a comment baiting Trump from Clinton.
A memorable moment in the first primary debate occurred when Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked Trump about some of the comments he had made about women, specifically calling them “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals.”
In a later debate, Carly Fiorina was asked if she would like to respond to a disparaging remark Trump made that people wouldn’t vote for “that face,” her face. She said she would let the comments speak for themselves: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
Will the candidates focus on issues?
The three topics of the debate are “America’s Direction,” “Achieving Prosperity” and “Securing America.” According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll out this week, 32 percent of registered voters say that the economy and jobs is the most important issue in choosing a candidate, while 23 percent picked terrorism and national security.
There has been much talk about which candidates have detailed plans on these issues and what those plans entail. The debate will be an opportunity for Clinton and Trump to lay out some more specifics.
But will Clinton and Trump resist the temptation to take shots at one another?
This month, Clinton claimed half of Trump’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables.” She later expressed “regret” for this comment. And this weekend Trump responded to Clinton inviting outspoken Trump critic Mark Cuban to attend the debate by tweeting that he “perhaps” would invite Gennifer Flowers to the debate. While NBC’s Lester Holt may try to keep the candidates on the planned topics, we all will be watching to see who throws the first personal attack.
Which Trump will show up?
Throughout the primary season, Trump promised Republicans that he would become more presidential during the general election. He often seems to be playing a game of one step forward and one step backward in this regard, but has shown some discipline to stay on message lately. This is his time to get beyond the Trump rally attendees and make his case to tens of millions of Americans.
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Will America like the candidates better after the debate?
Perhaps the biggest question of all is whether either candidate will be able to leave a more favorable impression on viewers after the debate. 57 percent of registered voters have an unfavorable impression of Clinton. Trump has the same unfavorable number. In a survey this summer, millennials rated Trump and Clinton with higher unfavorables than Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series.
It is difficult to win the vote of people who view you unfavorably. Tune in at 9pm Monday night for the 90 minute debate to see if either candidate can win over voters.