Presidential Debate: Five Things To Watch in the Final Joust



The final presidential debate may be Donald Trump's last best chance to turn around an election in which Hillary Clinton appears to be decisively pulling away.

But after scattershot performances in the two previous debates for Trump, time is running out. The GOP nominee's campaign has been sinking deeper into dark conspiracy theories, while Clinton has been trying to close her campaign on high note.

1.Clinton pummeled Donald Trump in the kickoff debate at Hofstra University, while at the second, at Washington University in St. Louis, she stepped back to engender sympathy while Trump pummeled her. Both approaches worked, with Clinton seen as the clear winner in post-debate surveys.

2.Trump's decision in the second debate to bring women who'd accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault stunned observers and, Trump allies believe, rattled Clinton. And that came before Trump declared he had removed the "shackles" of traditional political behavior he claimed had restrained him.

Now, Trump plans to bring the relative of an American killed in the Benghazi attack and, most surprisingly, Barack Obama's Kenyan half-brother, Malik, who is supporting Trump. Pundits are baffled as to why, but Trump is nothing if not surprising.

Invoking the Benghazi attack could backfire on Trump, however, as Clinton has typically responded with the compassion and restraint Trump seemed unable to give to critics like the Gold Star Khan family.

3.Trump has directed the full power of his presidential campaign in recent days to basically yelling at the television. The candidate and his surrogates have been spending as much time complaining about media coverage as almost anything else, accusing journalists of being part of a vast global conspiracy to defame him.

4.Trump doesn't just need to win the debate, and he doesn't just need to win it big. He needs to win it in a historic rout to begin closing the gap with Clinton in the final days of the campaign (polls out Tuesday showed Clinton competitive even in deep red Texas.)

The bar for Clinton is astronomically lower. She doesn't have to do much of anything. If the debate ends as it began, she will have cleared the final major hurdle before Election Day. After Wednesday, it will take an unforeseeable disruption to change the race.

5.Trump's speeches since the last debate have fixated on the vast conspiracy, which also includes everyone from international finance to pollsters to Republican critics including House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The component that's gotten the most attention is his repeated and unsubstantiated claim that there is a wide scale plot to rig the polls and steal the election. He's suggested Ryan is part of a "sinister deal" and may be sabotaging Trump's campaign in order to run for president in 2020.

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