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Monday night at Hofstra: The debate 100 million are waiting for

A family poses for photos in front of

A family poses for photos in front of a CNN trailer on the Hofstra University campus in Hempstead on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 25, 2016, the day before the first presidential debate of 2016. Photo Credit: Chuck Fadely

Monday night hardball

With polls showing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump nearly even, their debate at Hofstra University’s David S. Mack arena could turn out to be the most important 90 minutes of the race.

The 9 p.m. showdown at Hofstra in Hempstead figures to draw a record 100 million television viewers for its inherent high drama, the expected fireworks and the potential for unseemly farce.

Newsday’s Laura Figueroa, setting the stage, writes that Trump’s unpredictability has heightened the suspense. Figueroa also recaps their stands on the issues and notes how recent news on terrorism and police-involved shootings may become a big part of the conversation.

Newsday’s Yancey Roy points to five things to watch for, including how each candidate handles insults, which one looks and sounds stronger on substance and if either commits a nonverbal gaffe through body language.

For more debate-watching tips and our coverage plans, click here.

Matters of fact

It’s still a mystery whether the debate moderator, NBC’s Lester Holt, will step in to call out whoppers. But The 1600 on Tuesday morning will have the results of fact-checkers’ reviews.

While both candidates have records of estrangement from the truth, Politico’s review of their statements from just last week puts Trump in a league of his own — 87 erroneous statements in five days, compared with eight for Clinton.

Adjusting for time and word volume — because Trump talks more — he averaged one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds; Clinton had one every 12 minutes.

The take-away: Prevent defense

Sometimes it’s a brilliant sound bite or retort that carries the day. But it’s often a misstep that determines who wins — and more precisely, who loses — presidential debates.

Clinton risks losing points if she sounds too evasive, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison; Trump if he sounds too uninformed.

The unexpected

Handlers usually play down expectations for their own side, but Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, went the other way Sunday: “He’s like the Babe Ruth of debating. He really shows up and swings, and does a great job,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found 44% of registered voters expect Clinton to win the debate, while 34% expect Trump to come out ahead.

The poll finds Clinton ahead of Trump by just 2 points in voter preference nationally — a virtual dead heat.

Holt to a high standard

The debate’s moderator may be a target for critics whatever his performance, writes Newsday’s Emily Ngo. Holt’s job is a high-pressure balancing act that requires intense preparation.

Send no Flowers

For many months, Trump has dropped hints he might talk about Bill Clinton’s marital infidelities if he feels he was provoked.

So it was taken seriously when he tweeted Saturday about putting Gennifer Flowers — a Clinton mistress from his Arkansas days — in the front row at Hofstra. That was after the Clinton camp said it put Mark Cuban, a billionaire Trump antagonist, in the front row.

Fooled ya, Trump’s camp said Sunday. See Ngo’s story.

What else is happening

  • The stand-in playing Trump in Clinton’s debate rehearsals has been Philippe Reines, her former Senate and State Department aide. Reines is described to Politico by former Bill Clinton aide Paul Begala as well-suited to the Trump role because he is “clever but obnoxious.”
  • As more stories raise questions about potential self-dealing with his foundation, Trump hedged his answer on whether it has complied with all laws and rules. “Well, I hope so, I mean, my lawyers do it,” Trump said.
  • Battleground state polls indicate Clinton’s lead is shrinking in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado.
  • The Clintons maintained mutually beneficial ties with Goldman Sachs in the years after the 2008 financial meltdown, The New York Times found.
  • Trump and Clinton had separate meetings Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who came to New York for the UN General Assembly.
  • A civil rights museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, turned down a request from Trump’s campaign to arrange a special visit, charging the Trump staffers involved were “disrespectful.”

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