Time is running out for Donald Trump as he meets Hillary Clinton for one final showdown Wednesday night in their battle over the White House.
Trump trails Clinton in most national polls and in several key states, narrowing his path to gaining the 270 electoral votes needed to claim victory on Nov. 8.
Here are six things to watch when the debate starts at 9 pm EDT.
–Can Trump control the scatter-shot attacks and name-calling of the two previous debates and become a focused prosecutor of the case against her, on the leaked emails and some of the activities of the Clinton Foundation? The more time she has to spend on those topics, the more detrimental it is for her. His core supporters will cheer at any personal barb he throws her way. But what does he do to try and reach voters who remain uncomfortable with her - and him?
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–How does Clinton go after Trump on the lewd and sexually aggressive hot mic recording of him from 1995, and the stories about his predatory behavior from other women who have subsequently spoken out? She’s been largely silent, letting others, most notably first Lady Michelle Obama, offer the sharpest critiques.
–How does Trump counteract the notion that he doesn’t have the temperament to be president? Under attack over his alleged conduct with women, he has doubled-down on his predilection for conspiracy theories, suggesting that the media, the Clinton campaign and corporate interests have secretly plotted to deny him the presidency. Will he push that claim at the debate? Much to the frustration of most of his party, he has also signaled that the election is “rigged.”
–How does Clinton handle a personal reminder of the attack on U.S. facility in Benghazi during the Libyan revolution in 2011 that left four Americans dead? Trump has invited Patricia Smith to the debate. Her son, Sean Smith, was one of the State Department employees killed. Smith gave an emotional speech at the Republican National Convention in July, saying she blamed Clinton for her son's death.
–How often does Trump go back to the “change” theme? How effective is he at reinforcing the message that helped catapult his campaign in the beginning?
–Does Clinton, ahead in most polls and beginning to expand her efforts to traditional Republican states, like Arizona and Utah, to try and score a decisive victory, use this debate to make a closing argument, largely ignoring Trump?