Live blog: Thunderdome Part III

10:37 – Final thoughts: John will have a wrap-up later, but I think this was Trump’s best debate. He seemed much more focused and deftly handled the personal attacks without getting baited. Hillary sounded shrill at times, but didn’t just act passively. This was the most substantial of the three debates. Had Trump looked like this in the first two, he might be in position to win. The biggest key will be whether Trump can keep this discipline and focus over next 20 days.


10:35 – Trump: We need to make America great again. Military needs to be revived, as do our inner cities. All Hillary has done is talk but hasn’t done anything for Hispanics and African Americans. We don’t need a third Obama turn.

10:34 – Closing statements. Hillary’s reaching out to all Americans, we need everyone together, I’ve served people my whole life, I’ll stand up to powerful interests.

10:31 – Trump’s answer for entitlement reform — ObamaCare. Another bid for GOP, independent voters to come to Trump ticket.

10:30 – Entitlements! Wow, a real question to end a debate!

10:28 – Rather than answer the question on debt, Hillary first  goes down Memory Lane for Trump’s critiques of government over the years. I’m sure this will be effective among voters who never complain about government.

10:26 – Trump argues that his plan will allow the US to grow its way out of debt, so the projections are off.

10:22 – Hillary says she’ll pursue a no-fly zone in Syria despite warnings from the Obama administration and the Pentagon that it’s a good way to get into a war. What happens when a Russian plane violates it? Hillary evades the question.

10:20 – Trump disputes the premise of Wallace on Aleppo, and then argues that we don’t know who the rebels we’re backing actually are. He’s arguing against regime change in Syria on the basis that we have no idea what would follow Assad.

10:17 – I think Hillary was winning on points in this exchange until she refused to stop talking. It took Wallace at least three tries to get her to stop.

10:13 – Trump has a point to make about tipping our hands on military matters, but there’s no way to sneak up on Mosul. It was always going to be the next target, and probably should have been the first target. Trump does better on the Iran deal.

10:10 – Not a bad bounceback for Trump when he brings up Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton right before James Comey let Hillary off the hook. The audience applauded, and that does have a whiff of a fix being in.

10:09 – Hillary is scoring points on his serial claims of things being rigged against him. This is not a good look for Trump.


10:06 – Hillary hit Trump on his taxes, and Trump hits back by saying he’s following the laws that Hillary didn’t bother to change because it benefits her big donors.

10:04 – Second half hour, and Trump’s still ahead on points. No game changers, though, and Hillary’s not exactly laying up.

10:01 – Trump hammers the Clinton Foundation for taking money from countries that oppress women and executes gays, and challenges her to return the money. He calls it a ‘criminal enterprise.’

9:57 – Trump shifts the discussion to Hillary’s e-mails and the destruction of evidence under Congressional subpoena. Hillary starts a litany of Trump’s rhetorical attacks, but he reminds her that the tapes show her campaign fomenting the violence at his rallies. He’s doing pretty well at shifting the topic and not taking the bait.

9:54 – Trump takes the story on sexual misconduct and turns it back to James O’Keefe’s tapes about Democratic operatives pushing violence. He seems to have prepared for that question pretty well.

9:52 – Trump turns it back around on Hillary by pointing out the messes left behind in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Both of them scored pretty well.

9:49 – Trump hammers her for being around for 30 years and getting nothing done. It’s his best argument, and he did it well — but she’s hammering him back, too, by going over Trump’s past.

9:48 – Hillary admits that she changed her position on TPP after seeing the text, but why did she call it the “gold standard’ in the first place? She did score a good point off of Trump for shipping his own jobs to Mexico.

9:46 – Trump points out — rightly — that our economic growth has been stagnant at best for years.

9:45 – We need to invest “from the middle out and the ground up,” Hillary says. Which is it? She’s also saying that Obama doesn’t get enough credit for saving the economy, but the Great Recession ended in June 2009.

9:43 – Hillary says, “We know how to get control of the debt,” and says it takes investments in people. Well, that was the Obama approach, and we’ve added almost $10 trillion to the debt — a point Wallace makes, too.


9:41 – “We’re going to have more free trade than ever,” Trump says, but on his terms. NAFTA will either get renegotiated or get “terminated.”

9:40 – Fact check from where it belongs …

Give Wallace credit for not jumping into that exchange.

9:36 – First 30 minutes: Trump winning on points, big hit on “open borders,” has Hillary rattled but not derailed.

9:34 – Trump’s attacking back on Russia, saying that Putin has “outsmarted” Hillary “at every turn.”

9:32 – Hillary not backing off the Putin line, clearly her biggest line of planned attack tonight. She’s playing prevent defense on the Wikileaks information, and she’s getting increasingly shrill.

9:30 – Trump: “That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders.” Great line. Nicely done.

9:28 – Wallace slams Hillary with her own quote about her dream of open borders, and she looks a little rattled by it. Then she blames Russia for espionage — but she’s not denying she said it.

9:27 – Odd moment from Trump crediting Obama with deporting millions of people, but he gets back on track in between bookending his answer with that.

9:24 – “Of course my plan includes border security.” It includes the words, but … Also: Hillary said Trump “choked” by not mentioning the wall in his meeting with the Mexican president, but Hillary didn’t even bother to meet with him at all.

9:20 – Well, in the first twenty minutes, Trump gave conservatives two yuuuuge reasons to vote for him — guns and abortion. Probably a win for him in terms of rallying the Right, if he can sustain that. He also painted Hillary as an abortion extremist.

9:18 – Hillary won’t give an answer on when abortion should be limited. I’m sure that’s to Protect The Toddlers!

9:16 – Hillary doesn’t want regulations on abortion because The Constitution, but wants regulation on guns because The Constitution can have reasonable regulation. Er … what?


9:14 – So far, neither of the two sound terribly coherent on the gun issue at first. Trump sounding a bit better when proudly claiming the NRA’s endorsement.

9:11 – “Close the online loophole, the gun-show loophole” — total nonsense, as was the idea that the Supreme Court endangered toddlers with one of their decisions.

9:09 – Trump pledges to nominate conservatives that will use originalism as their constitutional approach. He’s also pledging to make sure that the court upholds the Second Amendment as an individual right.

9:08 – First point out of Trump is that Ruth Bader Ginsburg insulted him, naturally.

9:07 – This is a little difficult to take seriously:

9:06 – “What kind of country are we going to be” should not be a question about the Supreme Court, but about Congress, the presidency, and the states. Hillary basically offers a vision of the judiciary that will remind Republicans why they need to stop her from winning the election.

9:05 – No handshake. The most honest approach.

9:03 – The Bloomberg Twitter feed is about a minute behind C-SPAN’s broadcast, just FYI.

9:00 – Chris Wallace is instructing the audience on the rules of the debate, so this is a good time for this intro:

8:55 – The debate is taking place at UNLV, and one of the debate hosts noted that Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill today that will allow public financing for a new NFL stadium in Las Vegas. Maybe Chris Wallace can ask a question about boondoggles.

8:50 – “X-Files? No, they’re out of the FBI files.” And Mark Cuban finds himself waaaaay out of his element:

8:36 – Jesse Jackson tells John Heileman that “it’s close to treason” to use the Wikileaks hacks against Hillary Clinton because of the alleged Russian connection to the hack. Mistakenly referred to the country as “the Soviet Union,” but immediately corrected himself.


8:35 – Walking back:

8:31 – The Twitter live stream has started, and you can find it at

8:25 – I switched my streaming feed to Twitter’s, just to get a sense of the quality of the stream and coverage (partnered with Bloomberg).

8:20 – Can Trump exercise enough discipline to keep the attack on Hillary? Newt Gingrich’s observation won’t give folks the warm fuzzies:

Gingrich said there’s a side of Little Trump’s personality that’s “very sensitive, particularly to anything which attacks his own sense of integrity or his own sense of respectability, and he reacts very intensely, almost uncontrollably, to those kinds of situations.”

“I think that’s a weakness,” he said on the “Examining Politics” podcast. “I hope he grows out of it.”

There are 20 days left in the election. When will Trump “grow out of it” as a candidate? Newt and the GOP had better hope it happens in the next 40 minutes.

8:14 – Who’s trolling whom? Trump is reportedly inviting Sarah Palin and the newest Bill Clinton accuser Leslie Milwee as his guests, as well as Malik Obama, Barack’s half-brother; Hillary will have former Republican candidate for governor in California Meg Whitman, Mark Cuban, and four other guests related to immigration and illegal aliens.

8:07 – Chris Wallace tells C-SPAN that he’s the first Fox News moderator of a general-election presidential debate, and that it’s a vindication of Fox’s journalistic seriousness.

Update, 8:02 pm ET – Let’s light this candle with a stage check:

I’m watching on both C-SPAN on TV and Fox streaming; there is about a one-minute delay on the stream for C-SPAN.

Original post follows:


Two candidates enter, one candidate leave? Tonight’s third and final debate for the presidency provides the last opportunity for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to score points directly off of each other, although one candidate might need it more than the other. After the second debate, Trump suggested that he might not want to return for tonight’s event, calling the Commission on Presidential Debates “a rigged deal” a week ago, a suggestion his campaign spokesman made clear was not serious immediately afterward:


“The head guy worked for Bill Clinton. Ay yai yai. What a rigged deal this is,” Trump said at a rally in Florida. He was referring to CPD co-chair Mike McCurry, who served as Clinton’s press secretary for three and a half years. What Trump did not mention is that McCurry’s co-chair is Frank Fahrenkopf, chairman of the Republican National Committee while Ronald Reagan was president.

Trump went on to suggest that he might skip the third debate, scheduled for October 19 in Las Vegas. “I have no respect for that group, by the way, I’m done,” he said of the CPD. Trump spokesperson Jason Miller told the Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi that Trump does, in fact, plan to participate in the third debate.

They’ll both be in Las Vegas, and that may be the perfect venue for the final debate. Both parties have gambled on their nominees, and the GOP is now looking for a longshot win. Hillary has built momentum in national and battleground-state polling, and appears to be threatening in formerly safe places such as Arizona and possibly Georgia. Her strategy tonight will be to stay out of range of a Trump haymaker, writes Politico’s Annie Karni:

Hillary Clinton’s favorite way to abuse a lead is to take her foot off the gas pedal and coast. This time, as the campaign confidently expands into red states with just three weeks to go, it’s a tendency her team actually wants her to indulge in the final, bitter face-off against Donald Trump.

The goal for Clinton, according to a longtime aide, is to make Trump “shadowbox” his way through the 90-minute session Wednesday night — by keeping her head down and avoiding direct confrontation as he hurls personal and Wiki-related attacks in her direction.

“She has control of this race,” said Democratic strategist David Axelrod, a former top adviser to President Obama. “She should stay within herself … and resist the temptation to trade insults with Trump.”

For Trump, though, he needs to land some body shots and give Americans who want to vote for change enough comfort to trust Trump with their ballot. With less than three weeks to go and early voting underway already in a number of states, he needs a gamechanger result from tonight’s debate. To do that, he’ll have to demonstrate a level of preparation and discipline higher than the first two debates, and resist the urge to keep fighting on Hillary’s character-question turf. Even when she brings up the stories that have made headlines — and which Trump himself has fueled by continuously commenting on them — he needs to turn the final debate into a referendum on change.


Hillary has been in Washington for almost 25 years, so she’s the status quo that both sides dislike, and Trump’s the only option for change. To the extent that the Wikileaks e-mails support those arguments, then Trump should use them, but otherwise his best bet is to turn every policy statement she makes against her. His best moment came in the first debate when Trump kept asking her why she hadn’t done anything about these issues earlier, as a Senator or as Secretary of State — a particularly good point for tonight’s focus on foreign policy. If Trump instead indulges his penchant for vengeance over personal slights, it’s going to be a looooooong night for Republicans.

We’ll be live-blogging and tweeting tonight, so be sure to stay tuned in here in both posts. Updates will come at the top of the post in reverse chronological order, with the most recent comments on top.

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