The BUNS Guide to the First Debate

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Written by BU News Service

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump are set to square off tonight in the first of three presidential debates before the November election.  BU News Service staff weigh in on what to watch for tonight. And join us for live blog coverage of the debate at 9 p.m.

How will the candidates address national security issues?

Shannon Golden

Debate moderator Lester Holt of NBC News has announced “Securing America,” as one of three topics to be addressed in Monday night’s debate. The debate will take place just a couple of days after the Washington state mall shooting and just a week after the Chelsea bombing and Minnesota mall stabbings.

National security is at the forefront of this presidential election. With Trump and Clinton attacking each other’s ability to protect the country, voters will be anxiously waiting to see how the candidates tackle the issue on the debate stage.

The Clinton campaign has repeatedly attacked Trump’s ability to head the military and are focusing on painting him as too reckless for the presidency. The Trump team has been working on attacking Clinton’s trustworthiness and accountability when it comes to national security.

Voters want a president who can give them a feeling of security. The candidate who resonates best with the viewers will be the one who can present a comprehensive plan to fight ISIS and protect the U.S. here and abroad.

Trump will have to remain calm throughout the night, while Clinton will have to overcome the questions of trust.

Policing, Black Lives Matter and race

Erin Wade

With last week’s police shooting deaths of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Okla., and Keith Scott in Charlotte, N.C., it is almost a given that Holt will address the Black Lives Matter movement and policing in America during Monday night’s debate.

Trump said Wednesday he was “very, very troubled” by the shooting in Tulsa, suggesting that the police officer may have “choked,” while Clinton called it “unbearable” and said the United States has “to tackle systemic racism.”

Trump and Clinton both recently canceled trips to Charlotte after protests there turned violent late last week, and Clinton called on the city to release police videos from the shooting of Keith Scott, which they did on Saturday.

The two candidates’ policies on criminal justice and policing often differ, with Trump notably throwing his support behind stop-and-frisk policies last week. Trump, who has called himself the law-and-order candidate, said stop-and-frisk “worked incredibly well” in New York, despite New York’s stop-and-frisk policy being ruled unconstitutional in 2013 because it unfairly targeted minorities.

Trump has very low levels of support among black voters, with Clinton polling at 89 percent among African American likely voters in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.

With such a wide gap in support from black voters and unrest over racial issues and policing in the United States, it wouldn’t be a shock if Holt’s questions about police shootings and racial tensions were directed at Trump, who is only polling at 2 percent among African American likely voters, according to the same ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Who does the fact-checking?

Sarah Toy

In debates, candidates are normally expected to fact-check each other. When one says something that is not true, the other is expected to call him or her out. However, we have two election candidates this year whom voters hold in deep mistrust, one of whom has told outright falsehoods about a number of issues.

This raises the role of the moderator in fact-checking. Bob Schieffer, who has moderated several presidential debates in the past, said during a panel discussion at the Harvard Kennedy School that moderators should “absolutely” fact-check, but the chief fact-checkers should be the candidates themselves. Chris Wallace, who will moderate the third and final presidential debate, recently said, “I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad.”

Viewers themselves should be as clear as possible on the facts beforehand. Familiarize yourself with the major issues of the day and where each candidate stands. During the debate, watch to see when one candidate calls the other out. Note when Holt steps in. Note the candidate’s response when that happens. Be vigilant.

How will Trump fare without the crowd?

Michael Sol Warren

The unprecedented size of the field in the Republican primary cleared the path for Trump to secure the GOP nomination. This was especially clear in the primary debates, when Trump was able to disappear into the crowd for extended periods of time while nine other candidates squabbled.

Tonight, Trump will only have Clinton joining him on the stage. The option to take breaks as other candidates debate among themselves won’t be there for Trump. The increased attention will likely force the GOP candidate to wade into policy specifics rather than just trading insults and harping on themes.

On the other side of the stage, Clinton thrives in the details of policy. Trump doesn’t necessarily need to reach her level, but he does need to show that understands the full depth of the issues he would face as president. The challenge for him will be to remain poised and focused for the entirety of the debate.

Who will get the votes of American women?

Andrea Asuaje

In 2012, women made up the majority of the electorate. It is a group that votes consistently Democratic, and with this year’s potential of electing the first female president of the United States, this particular voting block could prove to be the deciding factor in the race for the White House.

With the recent release of Hillary Clinton’s ad “Mirrors,” which juxtaposes Donald Trump’s comments on women with images of young girls looking at themselves using — what else? — mirrors, the issue of connecting with women voters may be one present in tonight’s debate.

Women, particularly white, college-educated women, are polling as pro-Clinton, and without this particular voting block, Trump’s campaign could be looking at an uphill climb.

The concerns about how Trump has addressed women throughout the years is political fodder for the Clinton campaign. That, along with his anti-Planned Parenthood stance, may turn off women.

However, Trump recently said he would do more for women than Clinton, particularly in the realm of child care. His political agenda on this website states that his plan will help families with childcare and eldercare costs and “incentivize employers to provide childcare at the workplace.” His plan also includes providing six weeks of paid maternity leave for women before returning to work. And conservative women looking for a pro-life candidate cannot look to Clinton to support anti-abortion legislation and Supreme Court justices.

Ivanka Trump, who spoke highly of her father and his views on women during this year’s Republican National Convention, could certainly be Trump’s secret weapon in his fight for women’s votes, but without Ivanka by his side tonight, can he clinch this powerful voting block?


Megan Moore

Both presidential candidates were late in the game in addressing K-12 policy. Now, Clinton has some pretty big names advising her on the topic including Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association, and Randi Weingarten, the president of the National Education Association. Trump has snagged Williamson M. Evers from Stanford University and Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, to be on his education team. Each candidate has an education section on their campaign websites dedicated to policy proposals.
The candidates haven’t agreed on much when it comes to education, but it’s definitely a significant factor in the election. But will education sneak it’s way in to be a topic in the first 2016 presidential debate? With the release of the topics to be touched on by Holt, many on the education side of things hope both candidates will address topics such as common core, school vouchers, and free college tuition.
Trump has stated that he intends to put an end to common core, wants a $12,000 voucher for every child in impoverished conditions and has not given any specifics for college costs. Clinton hasn’t said much about common core, but she’s in support. She’s against vouchers, but is pushing a universal preschool plan. The challenge for this debate is making education a hot topic.

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