Clinton, Trump virtually tied
> Candidates to square off in highly anticipated debate
WASHINGTON: The lengthy US presidential campaign is careening towards a 90-minute showdown today, with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump squaring off in their first televised debate as they sit nearly neck and neck in the polls.
The event, which is expected to be watched – and parsed – by tens of millions of Americans, could draw a record number of viewers when it kicks off at 0100 GMT (9am today in Malaysia).
Many Americans are uncertain what to expect from the clash, which pits two vastly different candidates against each other on one tiny stage.
Clinton, 68, enters the fray as a polished former secretary of state, who after almost 40 years of public service is very well versed on the issues.
Trump, a 70-year-old billionaire and former reality TV star, is good on his feet, and unpredictable – more comfortable in the limelight than on issues.
As many as 90 million people are expected to tune in as the pair face off at Hofstra University in New York six weeks before the Nov 8 election.
The debate is being held one day after a Washington Post- ABC News poll revealed that Clinton’s slim advantage over Trump from last month has evaporated.
She is tied with Trump at 41% among registered voters, with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson at 7% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2%, according to the poll.
In a two-way match-up, Trump and Clinton were even at 46% of registered voters. The survey showed a statistical tie among likely voters as well.
Many analysts say debates usually do not win candidates the election but can well lose it for them. A single sentence or the slightest slip can do serious damage.
“I think this thing will be close right up until the end,” Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine said.
“We have to make our case every day. The debates are a great way to do that.”
Debate mind games were also on display as Trump threatened to invite Gennifer Flowers ( pix), a former lover of Bill Clinton, to watch the high-stakes battle from a front-row seat.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said it was meant to show the New York billionaire had ways “to get inside the head of Hillary Clinton” but she told CNN there were no plans to actually invite Flowers.
Nine per cent of voters by some estimates still do not know who to cast their ballot for, after a long campaign in which bitter attacks have often replaced talk of substance. – AFP