Republican nominee Donald Trump is likely to continue personal attacks on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the final presidential debate tomorrow while the former secretary of state could face questions on the fresh WikiLeaks revelations, an expert has said.
“I think we should probably take Trump at his word that he is going to continue the torrent of personal abuse in this debate,” David Birdsell, Dean of the Austin Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, said at a session by the New York Foreign Press Centre yesterday on what to expect in the final debate.
He said the 70-year-old real estate tycoon is clearly hoping that by pulling both candidacies into the same level of allegations of personal misconduct, it will either depress voter turnout or fire up his natural base, which tends to be less educated white males.
Birdsell, however, said that Trump is targeting personal misconduct that predominantly Clinton’s husband, Bill, made and not her, who is the candidate in the race.
Trump’s strategy by making character attacks against the former president Bill Clinton has to “reduce turnout overall or to boost turnout among his base to a point where it becomes dispositive”, he said.
In Clinton’s case, he said her strategy will be the line that she quoted from First Lady Michelle Obama in the second debate, which is “when they go low, you go high”.
The 68-year-old former secretary of state will have to defend additional WikiLeaks revelations, to answer questions about email, personal probity and face the “extended litany of attacks” from Trump, including his questioning of the entire electoral process, the media, election coverage and campaigning in the US, Birdsell said.
“And he is trying to suggest that it is all corrupt and all bad,” he said, adding in the final debate tomorrow, to be held at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Clinton clearly wants to sound different from and look different from Trump.
“She does not want to get mired in answering charge after charge after charge… We might see a Hillary Clinton that looked a little bit like the Hillary Clinton in the second debate, speaking directly to the people on a number of occasions,” Birdsell said.
Clinton would like to play up her positives and not the vulnerabilities, he said, adding the final debate is the last known opportunity for the nominees to make a big difference.
“The candidates can injure themselves through a gaffe, a serious misstep of some sort. But this is indeed the last scheduled opportunity for either candidate to make a big difference,” Birdsell said.
With Clinton leading over Trump with a 6 or 7 percentage points three weeks before the polls, Birdesll said no leading candidate has ever become the losing candidate on Election Day, suggesting a victory for the former secretary of state.