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HILLARY CLINTON AND Donald Trump squared off overnight in their first on-stage meeting of the current US presidential campaign.

Here’s how the much-anticipated clash played out.

The campaign has been going on since the middle of last year – but tonight is the first time Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will have encountered each other on the debate stage.

Hillary, it’s said, has been running for the White House all her life. Trump, while he dipped his toes in the water and teased a bid for the presidency before, only declared he was in the race for real in June of last year – staging a bizarre press conference in his Trump Tower HQ and setting out his stall in blunt terms with talk of Mexicans bringing drugs across the border and being “rapists”.

The real estate mogul’s tilt for the White House was considered so improbable in those first weeks that the Huffington Post even refused to cover it in its ‘Politics’ section, telling readers, “If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette”.

Yet here we all are.

Here’s a montage of US political journalists and commentators collapsing in fits of laughter at the mere prospect of Trump even becoming the Republican nominee:

Source: RAYMOND CHARLES GOUDARD/YouTube

So here’s what you need to know about how the debate will work:

  • Lester Holt, who anchors NBC Nightly News, will be taking charge
  • Hofstra University, in New York State, is the venue
  • The first debate will be split into time segments of approximately 15 minutes.
  • Each section will have one primary focus which will be decided by the moderator
  • Holt will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond
  • Trump and Clinton will then have the chance to respond to each other’s answers
  • The final two debates take place on 9 October and 19 October
  • The election takes place on 8 November

Donald Trump is in the building, according to reporters on the scene at Hofstra University.

Here’s how the venue is looking, as we approach the off in just two hours’ time…

Campaign 2016 Debate Source: David Goldman

Campaign 2016 Debate

Campaign 2016 Debate

Campaign 2016 Debate

TEC-Streaming-Debates

All images AP/Press Association

Here’s a word from the Donald (presumably his phone has already been taken away from him, ahead of the debate):

“My team of deplorables will be managing my Twitter account for this evenings (sic) debate. Tune in!”

Meanwhile, Hillary just tweeted a clip of that time Obama roasted Trump from the podium, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner back in 2011…

It’s long been speculated that Obama’s barbs on that evening compelled the businessman to throw his hat in the ring for the presidency.

“That evening of public abasement, rather than sending Mr. Trump away, accelerated his ferocious efforts to gain stature in the political world,” the New York Times wrote earlier this year.

“It’s such a false narrative,” Trump told the Washington Post back in April. “I had a phenomenal time. I had a great evening.”

Businessman Mark Cuban has been mobbed backstage at the debate, according to reporters at the scene.

You may recall Donald Trump threatened to bring Gennifer Flowers, who Bill Clinton admitted to having an affair with decades ago, to the debate if Cuban sat in the front row…

Cuban endorsed Hillary during the summer, telling the crowd he believed Trump had gone “bats— crazy”.

Things got a little strange between Cuban and Trump on Twitter in recent days…

Some quick financial news… This, from AFP:

Deutsche Bank’s woes and the looming first debate between battling US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton helped send global markets broadly lower Monday.

Banking shares in the US and Europe fell sharply following reports that Berlin has refused state aid to fortify Deutsche Bank as it faces a multibillion-dollar fine in the United States over its sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis.

Shares in Germany’s biggest lender sank to a historic low, plunging by 7.5 percent to end the day at 10.55 euros ($11.87), dragging down Frankfurt’s DAX 30 by 2.2 percent.

“Given the state of the news, people are selling almost in a panic,” said analyst Michael Seufert of NordLB bank.

Other banks to fall included fellow German giant Commerzbank, down 3.8 percent, BNP Paribas of France, shedding 3.3 percent, and Bank of America, off 2.7 percent.

Meanwhile shares of the eight largest US banks deemed “systemically important” were also hit after the Federal Reserve’s top regulator said higher capital requirements were on the way for them.

So how are the polls looking heading into tonight’s contest?

Very tight indeed, it turns out…

Trump’s popularity nosedived in the weeks after the Republican convention (particularly after he insulted the family of a slain US soldier) – but the candidates are now almost at a dead heat.

The most recent polls have Clinton and Trump virtually tied: 41% each according to a Washington Post-ABC poll, and 43% for Clinton to Trump’s 42% according to Quinnipiac University.

The Quinnipiac poll found that voters expect Clinton to win the debate 41% to 32% percent, and that 84% said they intended to watch.

If you want to delve deeper into the polling, may we suggest RealClearPolitics…

polls

This is not the Super Bowl. This is not the World Series.

Way to spoil our evening, Bernie Sanders.

It reminded us a little of this line from one of Larry David’s appearances portraying Senator Sanders, on Saturday Night Live last year…

I’m not Elvis Presley. Let’s just get on with it.

Source: abidmaria143/YouTube

If you’re just joining us ahead of the 2am debate start, here’s what you need to know – from AFP:

Where is it? 

Hofstra University in the city of Hempstead on Long Island, an hour’s drive from New York. Hofstra is no newcomer to presidential debates, having hosted them in 2008 and 2012.

Length and format

Ninety minutes, in six 15-minute segments with no commercial interruptions. Questions will focus on three broad themes: “America’s Direction,” “Achieving Prosperity” and “Securing America”.

The two candidates will be alone on the stage, each standing behind a lectern.

The moderator will open each segment with a question. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond; each will then be allowed to reply to the other’s response. The moderator will use the remaining time for follow-up questions.

Each broad theme will be discussed for 30 minutes.

Moderator

Lester Holt, 57, the respected anchor of NBC’s evening news programme, the country’s most widely watched. He moderated one of the Democratic primary debates in January.

TV-NBC-Lester Holt Lester Holt Source: Associated Press

The stakes for Hillary Clinton 

The bar is higher for the Democratic candidate, given her experience and detailed knowledge of the issues. Clinton will have to show that she is presidential but also honest (66% of Americans do not think so), while proving that she has fully recovered from her recent bout of pneumonia. Clinton is not particularly well-liked, and anything she can do to create an emotional bond with voters could boost her cause.

The stakes for Donald Trump 

Trump needs to convince voters that he has what it takes to be president, that he has at least an adequate familiarity with the issues and can make it through a high-pressure debate against a single opponent without losing his self-control. He also needs to reassure Republicans that although he is in many ways an outsider, he would serve as a Republican president.

 

Let’s look at some moments from past debates, while everyone’s settling in…

These are the moments that LOST candidates the subsequent election (according to popular wisdom at least). It’s often said that while debates don’t necessarily provide an opportunity for hopefuls to clinch victory, the events give them plenty of opportunity to blow their entire effort…

1976

Then-president Gerald Ford made a horrendous gaffe when he was asked about the Soviet Union’s influence on Europe.

“There is no Soviet domination of eastern Europe and there never will be,” he said – leading to a somewhat incredulous reaction from the moderator.

Source: lawford83/YouTube

1988

The very first question in the 1988 presidential debate asked then-governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis if he would favour the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered.

Dukakis said that he wouldn’t, pointing out that he had opposed the death penalty his entire life. However the public saw the answer as solidifying his reputation for being cold and dispassionate.

The Democrat’s poll numbers dropped literally overnight and Republican George HW Bush went on to win one of the most comprehensive victories ever in a US presidential election.

Source: lawford83/YouTube

1992

It wasn’t so much what President Bush said, as the body language.

In the 1992 presidential debate with Bill Clinton, George HW Bush checked his watch as a young voter asked him a question about how the recession had affected him personally.

The president’s answer was rambling and did not go down well with the American public –  especially in comparison with Bill Clinton’s answer in which he empathised closely with the voter.

Source: Seth Masket/YouTube

H/T to the Guardian for spotting this, from 90-year-old former congressman John Dingell:

Yes, he’s a Democrat.

Sky News has been showing the host sitting at his desk for the last two minutes.

Riveting.

sky

Here we go…

Off we go…

Handshakes all round as the candidates enter the stage…

Hillary gets first answer, on the subject of jobs.

off

The two candidates clashing on trade now, the debate becoming a little more animated.

deb2

I know you live in your own reality.

Hillary gets in first real barb of the night, as Trump tries to hammer her on trade.

(We had some technical problems for the first few minutes of the debate by the way, but it took a while to get going anyway – right?)

Trump on the offensive, and he’s taken many viewers by surprise – seems on top of his talking points, and taking the fight to Clinton.

“By the end of the night I’m going to blamed for everything,” says Clinton.

“Why not,” responds Trump.

Hillary goes on to accuse the GOP candidate of saying “crazy things”.

Trump soundbites keep on coming…

“Typical politician.”

“Bad choices.”

“We are in a big, fat, ugly bubble.”

“When they raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen.”

“As soon as the audit is finished it will be released,” comes Trump’s response, as Lester Holt asks him why he hasn’t revealed his tax returns.

It’s standard, in the modern age, for presidential candidates to release their returns.

Applause from the audience (which is against the debate rules) as Trump demands release of Hillary emails.

Lester Holt reminds audience to stay quiet.

Hillary says there’s no legal reason why Trump shouldn’t reveal his emails.

“Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is,” she muses.

Clinton says she has met dozens of people who have been “stiffed” by Trump’s businesses – raises his poor record in paying contractors.

Do they not deserves some kind of apology?

“If I don’t get there one way, I’ll get there another.”

Trumps talks up a new hotel he’s planning to open, just around the corner from the White House, in Washington DC.

This ‘Hillary fought Isis her entire life’ thing appears to have legs…

One of the moments of the debate so far, as far as social media is concerned.

For the record, ‘Isis’ or ‘Islamic State’ first began to emerge as the name of the militant group in 2014.

Trump not clearing much up, as he’s asked to explain why he hasn’t apologised for his ‘birther’ campaign against Barack Obama.

Trump started his whole campaign based on a “racist lie” that Obama wasn’t an American, Clinton says.

Trump has a long record in engaging in “racist behaviour” Clinton says. Her strongest attack of the debate so far. Trump doesn’t appear to have a proper answer on this issue.

The BBC’s Reality Check weighs in on that Isis comment from Trump:

This is a strange claim to make. Clinton is 68 years old. The so-called Islamic State did not appear on the scene until 2009, although its roots stretch back to the Sunni terror group al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which started in 2004.

Clinton failing to land a knockout blow so far.

The former Secretary of State raises lists of former administration officials who have said Trump is unfit to be Commander in Chief.

Trump counters by bringing up groups of law enforcement officials who have endorsed him.

The GOP candidate is silent over Clinton’s reference to his praise for Vladimir Putin.

Trump now taking on Lester Holt, who tells the GOP candidate he was in FAVOUR of invading Iraq back in 2002.

Trump refers to that famous Howard Stern clip (see previous post). Says he gave an off-the-cuff answer to Stern, but was on record as being against the war in following months.

His answer is a little convoluted, but he says he was AGAINST the war before America launched its invasion.

“Whoof. Okay!”

- Hillary’s response, after Trump winds up a long answer on Isis, Nato and those Iraq claims.

Laughs from the audience (against the rules – but no rebuke from Holt).

A quick roundup of the US media’s view:

Benjamin Netanyahu is “not a happy camper” at the moment, Trump says – answering a question about nuclear weapons.

As the debate enters its final minutes Trump says repeatedly that Clinton “doesn’t have the stamina” to be President.

Both sides applauding and cheering their candidates as they trade some final barbs (the rules people – what about the rules!).

Clinton reminds audience that Trump has described women as “pigs, slobs and dogs,” and says the GOP candidate loves “hanging around” beauty contests.

Are you willing to accept outcome of election, candidates are asked…

Yes, says Clinton (essentially).

“I want to make America great again,” begins Trump’s answer.

“If she wins I will absolutely support her,” he eventually says.

Clinton referred to a beauty contest participant, Alicia Machado, in one of her final attacks on Trump.

The Republican referred to her as “Miss Piggy” after the contest, she said.

Here’s more on that, from NBC News last month:

Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado will be voting for the first time in the United States in November, and she’s taking the chance to vote against the candidate who called her “Miss Piggy.”

Machado won Miss Universe while representing Venezuela in 1996, a beauty pageant owned — and formerly judged — by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. After her victory, she claims Trump referred to her as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.”

“I so proud and inspiration to be a U.S. Citizen! I’ll be Voting!” Machado posted to Instagram. She then says she’ll be giving all her power and support to Hillary Clinton become with my next President @hillaryclinton Miss Housekeeping and miss Piggy Can Vote @realdonaldtrump.”

Well, what did you make of it?

We’re closing our liveblog now – but you can look forward to days of coverage across the news channels, as the debate begins over who won the damn thing.

The initial feedback, online, is that Clinton edged it. Trump played to his base, but had some poor moments later on in the event.

We’ll be back, before the night is out, with a highlights piece…

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