7 things to expect in the first presidential debate of 2016

Erik Petrovich

Just 42 days away from Nov. 8, Presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will debate for the first time tonight at 7 p.m. The 90-minute debate will be one of three debates between the Democratic and the Republican parties scheduled before Election Day.

Clinton currently holds a national polling advantage of about 2.8 points, according to RealClearPolitics, though the Trump campaign has narrowed this lead recently.


As Trump’s campaign has started to stick to a consistent message, and as Clinton has been receiving steadily more Republican support, the first debate may set the tone for the rest of the election season.

Here are seven things to expect from tonight’s debate:

1. There will be lots of time for rebuttal – and the candidates will be sure to use it.
In addition to having two minutes to respond to questions posed to them, candidates can have up to two minutes to respond to the other candidate’s answer. As it is the goal of both Clinton and Trump to get the most airtime, both candidates are expected to find reasons to rebut one another.

2. There will be three subject areas and six 15-minute question blocks.
The three subject areas were chosen by Lester Holt, “NBC Nightly News” anchor. He was told to choose six subject areas, but instead only chose three. The subjects will each have two time slots of questions dedicated to them, which will allow a total of 90 minutes for the debate.

3. The winner, if there is one, will gain a jump in the polls.
If Clinton wins, it will be because she was able to show that Trump did not have as firm a grasp on policy as she does. If Trump wins, it will be because he was able to catch Clinton off guard with constant insults and his unpredictability. Either way, the winner of the debate will show that they beat the first test of the general election cycle, and will gain a boost in support after the public sees their ability to command a discussion.

4. Mark Cuban will attend the debate, and Gennifer Flowers might attend.
Mark Cuban, a billionaire investor, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Magnolia Pictures, and guest on the TV show “Shark Tank,” was invited by Clinton to attend the debate. Cuban has been confirmed to be seated in the front row Monday night. Trump threatened to invite Gennifer Flowers to the debate as his guest, who claimed to have been in a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton for 12 years, who later confessed to only one encounter in 1977. The Trump camp has officially denied that Flowers has been invited, though this is contrary to what the candidate himself said. Trump may invite another guest of honor.

5. Clinton will attempt to make Trump look un-presidential.
Clinton has talked for months about how Trump is “temperamentally unfit” to become President. On Monday, she may get the chance to showcase that to the largest audience ever for a political broadcast. Trump’s advisers are worried that the candidate will be unable to control his penchant for insults on national TV. The Clinton camp believes he will resort to this when he is unable to answer questions on policy, which they hope happens often, as it would make him appear out of control next to a calm and collected Clinton.

6. Trump will attempt to portray Clinton as corrupt and untrustworthy.
Trump’s main line of attack against Clinton has been the perception that she is untrustworthy and does not have the right moral character for the Oval Office. His attacks on her decision to stay with Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, on her involvement in Libya and on her moral character show that Trump seeks to paint his opponent as a corrupt government official removed from normal people.

7. You can watch it almost anywhere.
The debate will be broadcast at 7 p.m. MST on various sites, including BuzzFeed, CNN, and Facebook, which will host ABC News’ coverage of the debate online. Stay tuned to the Collegian for live coverage via Twitter and a recap Tuesday.

Collegian Editor-in-Chief Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.