HEMPSTEAD — Republican Donald Trump finally faced off against Democrat Hillary Clinton Monday in the first presidential debate of a raucous, unpredictable campaign as it converged in a televised clash that was expected to draw a record, global audience.
Clinton brought a slim lead that’s eroded in recent weeks to the debate at Hofstra University. A McClatchy-Marist poll on Friday showed a 7-point lead among likely voters while six other polls tracked by Real Clear Politics found Clinton led by 1 percentage point up to 6 points. Real Clear Politics also showed two polls had Trump leading by 1 point to 5 points. A CBS News-New York Times poll had Trump and Clinton tied.
Clinton’s advisers have said the former secretary of state, senator and first lady is preparing to not only press Trump on what she considers his extreme and racist positions, but also show him unprepared for office, but to provoke him to proving her claim that he lacks the temperament to be president.
Trump, the billionaire Manhattan developer, last week expanded his list of potential Supreme Court nominees to try to assure Republicans who oppose his maverick style and hardline positions that he will be a responsible candidate who will protect conservative values. He is trying to coalesce Republicans while attracting Democrats and voters not enrolled in a party.
“It will be daunting experience for Trump and Clinton because you aren’t operating from a script and you are there against your opponent,” said Alan Schroeder, journalism professor at Northeastern University. “It is quite perilous.”
Presidential debates are no longer news events to watch passively; for millions of Americans they carry the enticement of entertainment and are interactive forums through Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media, said Mitchell S. McKinney, professor, department chairman and director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri.
“There are very few events like this where the entire country can talk to itself if they want, and do it live,” said Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at The Paley Center for Media.