The Final Duel: Trump and Clinton Square Off One Last Time

Trump Tapes -Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton split -Getty-H 2016
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images; Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“This is it, don’t get scared now.” 

Somehow Tuesday went by without a major bombshell being dropped in advance of the third and final presidential debate. 

In a political season that has been as unpredictable as it is unbelievable, Wednesday’s big debate finale could be a snooze, but if history is any indicator, the country won’t be so lucky. 

The challenges for each campaign are clear: 

The Trump campaign is still trying to change the narrative away from the numerous, varying accounts of sexual misconduct by women who allege to have had encounters with Trump. He’s not shied away from denying the allegations, degrading the women making claims, and…well…suggesting that President Obama should have to face similar claims — just to make it fair. Right.

The Clinton campaign faces having to be on the defense regarding Bill Clinton’s sexual past — figuring how to answer, or not answer, the grenades thrown by Trump about the former president. Additionally, WikiLeaks email releases that haven’t really caught much national attention, and the ongoing claim that the media is in cahoots with Hillary Clinton to “rig” the election in her favor.

Somehow none of those things have anything to do with Syria. Or Russia. Or economic policy. Or education. Or jobs. Or (insert your favorite under-addressed issue here).

The final debate will also have another wild card dynamic: It’s being moderated by a Fox News anchor, Chris Wallace. While that, on its face, could prove to be one factor that could really turn this sparring session into a Trump-fest, Wallace has actually been one of Trump’s more difficult moderators in the past. 

The last time Wallace moderated a debate, in a March Republican debate, Wallace was armed with facts (for all of the candidates), he was fact-checker-in-chief when Trump said he’d be cutting federal programs to eliminate or reduce the deficit. Trump had an answer that was specifically about cutting the budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, as part of his plan to offset the $10 billion deficit anticipated by his tax plan. 

Wallace was ready.

“But Mr. Trump, your numbers don’t add up. Please put up full screen number four,” Wallace requested of the control room. Wallace went on to highlight that the specific cuts mentioned by Trump would only account for about $86 billion of the $544 billion deficit, about a sixth of what would be needed to eliminate the deficit. 

Interestingly, this time around Wallace has said that fact-checking isn’t his job. After a request from the Commission on Presidential Debates to not spend time on the facts but rather just ask the questions, this debate could be a stark difference from the last time we saw Wallace in the driver’s seat.

The other wild card is the unknown. We didn’t know that only an hour and a half before the last debate Trump would pull out accusers from Bill Clinton’s past in a press conference, and then seat them prominently in the audience. We didn’t know that two days before there’d be a tape with the most vulgar language we’ve heard from a Presidential candidate, arguably, ever. 

What do we NOT yet see coming? What surprise(s) does October have left in it? How will these debates impact the voters coming to the polls Nov. 8? 

We’ll be watching. 


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

Make sure to 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.