By David Cruz
All the TV ads and surrogate appearances will take a back seat for tonight as the two principals prepare for the final reel of our national political drama. Secretary Hillary Clinton and real estate developer Donald Trump will engage in the first of what will be three presidential debates. Close to 100 million people are expected to be watching, including political pundit Nick Acocella, who’s seen his share of debates, including the ones that had major impacts, like Reagan/Carter, Bentsen/Quayle and even Christie/Rubio.
“The worst case scenario for Trump is if he reverts to being Trump. If he does what he did during the primaries — telling us how big his hands are and all that kind of stuff — it does him no good. He’s already got that vote,” Acocella suggested. “The worst case scenario for her is that Hillary that screams. She should be calm; she should be on point, on message about every issue. That’s her strength. If she doesn’t do that, she’s going to lose support.”
In a forum that can often favor style over substance, there has been a lot of discussion about Clinton’s need to be softer, to smile more. Is that fair? We asked Krista Jenkins, of the FDU PublicMind Poll.
“I do think she’s being held to a different standard,” she said. “I think we do expect her to be both policy wonk and expert in all things political but also have this human touch, look great, be in impeccable health. I do think it is harder for her.”
The pundits all seem to agree that both sides are suffering from a trust deficit with voters not already committed to them. Clinton still holds a double-digit lead in New Jersey but national polls show a much closer race. A lot of minds are already made up, says Seton Hall Political Science Professor Matthew Hale, which is not necessarily a good thing for either side.
“I think most people have a first impression of both candidates and they don’t like their first impressions, so I think these debates are a time for people to try and find something they can hold onto that they might vote for either one of them,” said Hale.
There is a lot at stake tonight. This is the first head-to-head contest between these very different candidates and whether you’re a style or substance person, there will be plenty to look for, and for political junkies, two more debates to debate about.