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Clash of the Candidates: Previewing the First Presidential Debate

By Adam Hornbuckle
Political Columnist

It’s almost time for Americans to get a front row seat and watch the two major party candidates duke it out on stage. On Monday, Sept. 26, at 9 p.m. we will all see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in their first head-to-head debate. The debate will consist of six segments of approximately 15 minutes each. The moderator of the debate, Lester Holt, will select a different topic for each of the 15-minute segments and will open them with a question directed at both candidates. The debate will be televised on major news networks in addition to CSPAN, hosted by Hofstra University.

It’s doubtful that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson will find himself at the podium on the 26th as he has failed thus far to meet the requirements. The Commission on Presidential Debates requires that a candidate must be polling at 15 percent in at least five national polls to be given a spot on stage during one of the debates. Currently, Johnson has failed to consistently find himself above 10 percent, but is still fighting to have a 3rd podium on stage. Green party candidate Jill Stein is also not expected at the debate, as she finds herself trailing Johnson with less than 4 percent of voter support.

So we know when the debate will be and who to expect there, but do we know what to expect from the candidates in attendance? You can rest assured that the exact responses from the candidates will be very similar to their stump speeches, and on that front, we won’t hear much new or exciting.

What will be interesting to see will be the candidates’ rhetoric and how they formulate their attacks on their opponent. This debate is, of course, coming at a time when Hillary is defusing questions about her health and Trump is rebranding his campaign with new leadership and transitioning to a new approach.

“The Trump campaign has been trying to relaunch the candidate as a calmer, more presidential sounding version of himself,” said Jeremy Buchman, a professor in the Political Science department. “The first debate will tell us much about whether the effort was successful. I’m expecting a conflict less suited for a podium than for the UFC octagon.”

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