Second Presidential Debate Shrouded in Controversy Before Candidates Even Arrive

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Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton

How does the moderator (and each candidate) handle the giant elephant in the room?

What a lead-in. 

The second presidential debate on Sunday night couldn’t have asked for better advance programming to get people to watch just what was going to follow from St. Louis. And the questions we have to ask before Hillary Clinton takes the stage with Donald Trump.

Does Trump show up?

Does Hillary bring it up (first)? Does the moderator ask? Does the moderator allow a voter to ask?

What does he say? What DOESN’T he say? What wine pairs with this brand of riveting programming?

If you missed it, on Friday the Washington Post exposed video from unaired portions of a 2005 Access Hollywood interview with Billy Bush and Trump, where he says egregious things about the show’s then-host, Nancy O’Dell, and about a soap star he was preparing to meet, Arianne Zucker. 

The following comes from the Washington Post audio, in which Trump is addressing having made advances to O'Dell:

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. “I did try and f— her. She was married,” Trump says.

“And I moved on her very heavily," he says. “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married." 

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says as he sees the soap opera star. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Grab them by the p***y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

Trump came out with a 90-second video around midnight Friday night, where he apologized for his words, and immediately attacked Hillary and Bill Clinton. In an earlier statement, he’d even said that Bill had done much worse. 

This dark cloud looms over the Trump campaign, and more importantly the second presidential debate.

In a campaign that has seen Trump weather many, many a storm, this scandal had a different tone, with many prominent Republicans calling for their candidate to step down and leave the race — an option GOP leaders were supposedly meeting about Friday night. The major problem: Early voting has already begun in some states, and most ballots have already been printed in advance of Election Day. 

The Clinton campaign fired back swiftly with a new video of more direct quotes from the Republican nominee, under the guise of “Women can stop Trump,” making an aggressive appeal to one of Trump’s weakest performing demographics. 

Oh, and then there's this debate. This round is slated as a town hall format, where voters are able to ask half of the questions, the other half coming from CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC News’ Martha Raddatz.

One of the big things to watch for: What questions now go into the debate that weren't already there? And this coming on the heels of a huge Miss Universe firestorm, another story that focused on Trump's dealings, thought processes and actions toward women. 

The conversations around what to expect from this debate's other topics have all dissolved, with little talk about foreign policy, the economy, plans for social issues, education, etc. The cloud of this one video — these incredibly inflammatory words and Trump’s recovery — has overshadowed everything else.

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There will be so much to talk about, we’re going to be live with post-debate conversation. 

Join us immediately following the presidential debate, on The Hollywood Reporter’s Facebook Live. Countdown to Election Night with Jarrett Hill will be live with your commentary and questions, plus political and pop culture experts for live feedback on the debate, the candidates and what they made of it all. 

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