Are you as nervous as we are about the show tonight? Yeah, sure, of course Hillary’s much smarter than Donald, and in a real debate she could obviously clean his clock. But this election isn’t really about politics as much as it is about reality television, and voters don’t care about policy and facts as much as they care about style and drama, so Hillary might actually lose by being the most qualified politician onstage.
But if you can bring yourself to watch tonight, here are a few things to keep an eye out for, starting with:
1. Clinton’s experience
She’s been doing debates her entire adult life, and even got to hone her skills against a single opponent (Bernie) in this election cycle. Trump, in contrast, has mostly only debated recently, and in a group — which means he could sit back from time to time if he didn’t have anything to contribute. Next thing to watch for:
2. Special guests
The Clinton campaign arranged for advisor Marc Cuban to sit in the audience, and Trump countered by inviting Bill Clinton accuser Gennifer Flowers. Who knows what he could make out of that — maybe he’ll invite her up on stage.
And Trump could bring up all kinds of lies. There’s the claim that Hillary’s health is failing — there’s no real evidence of that but it’s a good story. Or he might blame her for the birther movement that was really all his doing. Or he could accuse her foundation of wrongdoing, when it’s really his foundation that’s a big scam. Whatever he says, he’s unlikely to be fact-checked by moderators. They don’t fact-check The Bachelor, why should they fact-check this reality show?
4. Instant & omnipresent commentary
But really, the biggest thing to watch in the debate isn’t even going to be a part of the debate, and that’s social media. The best reactions and analysis will be happening in real time, so you can just open up your Twitter feed and watch that. You don’t even have to see the ugly sausage-making at all.