Clinton-Trump face off in final presidential debate

Up-to-the-minute debate coverage, expert analysis and insights into Twitter trends and conversations as presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spar for the third and final time.

    Wow, that happened.

    It has been a very long time since abortion and immigration have played a powerful role in this election but tonight these issues had their time.
    Here is a look at the mentions between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. This is from the battleground states alone.

    Tomorrow's front page

    As Trump goes on about the need to repeal and replace Obamacare in the final question, front-page newspaper editors are already prepping their headlines for tomorrow. And in all likelihood, the story will be Trump's refusal to peacefully accept the election results if he loses in November.

    Chris Wallace resurrecting a moderating style

    Chris Wallace here is repeating a tactic that he used to great effect during the Republican primaries. This is why debate analysts wanted Wallace as the third moderator.
    By pre-fact-checking the candidates and first laying out their previous statements on the record, he forces them to answer the questions without giving them the chance to make denials about previous policy positions/statements.

    Clinton’s burden of expectations

    Stakes are high for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, too. Following two strong debate performances that were widely seen as victories, Clinton has a chance to shut Trump out again for a very rare sweep in the debate cycle. That hardly ever happens, debate coaches and a former consultant with the Commission For Presidential Debates tell me. (In 2012, for example, President Barack Obama was seen to have lost the first debate to Mitt Romney, then bested him in the town hall before edging him out in the third debate that year.)

    This could be Clinton’s debate to lose, and debate experts say she must avoid unforced errors and stay level-headed in the face of potentially withering personal attacks.

    I wrote a story setting up this showdown here.

    Special guests and psychological games

    This may all sound bizarre, but this kind of audience window-dressing has been wielded as a psychological tool by both the Trump and Clinton campaigns so far in this series of debates.

    You might remember how, in the preamble to Debate 1, the Clinton camp had joked about granting a front-row seat to billionaire and frequent Trump critic Mark Cuban. The move was seen as a means of unnerving Trump. (Cuban did attend the debate, but did not sit in the front row.)

    Trump retaliated before the first debate by threatening to give a front-row spot to Gennifer Flowers, who revealed she had an affair in 1977 with Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton

    In the second debate, Trump’s campaign attempted to engineer an awkward face-to-face meeting between Bill Clinton and women who have accused him of harassment and sexual assault. Debate commission officials caught wind of the plan early on, and were able to prevent Trump from setting up the encounter. Officials also threatened to remove the women if Trump’s team seated them in the front-row “family box” so they would be in Clinton’s sightline during the debate.

    Approval of the Supreme Court

    The Supreme Court is a partisan issue. Not surprisingly, Gallup has found that approval of the Supreme Court is tied to partisanship. Republicans approved of the court when George W. Bush was the president and appointing its justices.
    Now, it is Democrats who most approve of the Supreme Court. You can see the historical trend line here.

    Trump on Supreme Court nominees:

    Uphold the second amendment...The justices I’m going to appoint will be pro-life.

    Candidates previous statements being read to them 

    Clinton: "We will NOT have open borders. That is a rank mischaracterization."
    Now here's Chris Wallace quoting her on WikiLeaks and "open borders." This is tough questioning. Trump interrupts with "thank you," prompting laughter. Clinton's response is that the context of the speech was about energy policy.
    On WikiLeaks, she pivots to this being part of an effort by Russian hackers to influence the U.S. election. 
    Trump: "That was a great pivot on the fact she wants open borders," he says. More laughter. How did we get onto Vladimir Putin? he asks.
    Not a bad line. Trump was more often the one pivoting and getting off message during these debates.

    Trump on Russia

    I don't know Putin. He said nice things about me. 
    Clinton says Putin...
    ...would rather have a puppet for president.

    Russia behind attacks? 

    Win McNamee/Getty Images
    Trump says he would condemn Russia if they are behind cyber attacks in this election. 


    Seems to be some confusion on Twitter over whether Trump has been repeating the made-up word "bigly," as he has done in the past.
    I thought I heard him say "big league."

    Trade agreements: Trump v. Clinton claims

    Trump says Clinton wants to sign Trans Pacific Partnership.

    Clinton retorts that when she saw the final agreement on TPP she was against it.

    Fitness for President: 91% say Trump is unfit
    Users on Twitter continuously share comments about Donald Trump’s temperament and say that he is unfit for the Presidency. Users share Clinton endorsements from newspapers or other political actors that often cite Trump as unfit for the job. On September 30, the largest spike was created by the USA Today’s unprecedented endorsement of Clinton, in which it said in the endorsement’s headline “Trump is unfit for the presidency”.


    Biggest driver of debt is entitlements, Wallace says.

    “Medicare is going to run out of money in the 2020s, recipients will take huge cuts in their benefits,” he says.

    When asked about entitlements, Trump responds with remark on Obamacare:

    Repeal and replace the disaster known on Obamacare.

    Clinton says:

    We need to put more money in the social security trust fund. Part of raising taxes on the wealthy. Clinton says Trump’s tax cuts will have dire consequences on America and Medicare problem will get worse.

    Trump responds by saying Clinton is “a nasty woman.”

    1 minute up on the clock — a closing pitch

    Chris Wallace notes that neither candidate opted to make a closing statement. "That might make it more interesting," he says, as he puts one minute on the clock: "Tell the American people why they should elect you to be the next president."

    Clinton goes first, ends on a positive note of outreach across parties.

    "I’m reaching out to all Americans. Democrats, Republican and independents, because we need everybody to make our country what it should be. To grow the economy, to make it fairer, to make it work for everyone."

    This was precisely the message she needed to send.

    Trump, by contrast, strikes a negative tone about poor treatment of veterans, adding: "Our policemen and women are disrespected. We need law and order, but we need justice, too." He calls "inner cities" a disaster and focuses on attacking Clinton. "We cannot take four more years of Barack Obama, and that's what you get when you get here."

    And the debate ends without a handshake between the two candidates.
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