WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s ugly and acrimonious battle for the White House is barreling toward the end, with the candidates taking the debate stage Wednesday night for one final primetime showdown.
For Trump, the debate is perhaps his last opportunity to turn around a race that appears to be slipping away from him. His comments about women and a flood of sexual assault accusations have deepened his unpopularity with women and limited his pathways to victory.
Experts say there’s no telling what to expect, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
“This is a very volatile candidate — a volatile candidate in an election that he feels like he’s losing,” Republican strategist Dan Senor said. “There’ll probably be surprises.”
“There has been nothing about this cycle so far that is predictable,” Democratic strategist Mike Feldman said.
CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports the 90-minute face-off will cover debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots and “fitness to be president.” The topics were selected by moderator Chris Wallace.
In his final rally before Wednesday’s debate, Trump reiterated to a Colorado crowd his assertion that the election is rigged, though there’s been zero evidence, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
“If we let the Clinton cartel run this government, history will record that 2017 was the year that America lost its independence,” he said.
The GOP nominee says a Trump administration would lead to ethics reform in Washington, including limits on lobbyists. Trump also proposing term limits for members of congress.
“We’re going to drain the swamp in Washington D.C., and that’s what it is,” he said.
The unsubstantiated claims have sparked criticism from Republican leaders.
“To say that elections are rigged and all these votes are stolen, that’s like saying we never landed on the moon, frankly,” former Republican candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich said.
Another topic certain to be addressed on the debate stage is Trump’s vulgar comments about women caught on tape.
At a leadership conference in California Wednesday, Ivanka Trump was asked about the conversation she had with her father about it.
“He recognizes it was crude language,” Ivanka Trump said. “He was embarrassed that he said these things and he apologized. It was jarring for me to hear and he was very sincere in his apology.”
Both campaign’s vice presidential nominee seemed to be test-driving some of the themes we might hear in the debate.
“I’ll tell you at the end of the campaign, Donald Trump, instead of being apologetic and taking responsibility for some of the things he’s done, he’s decided to go further and insult the very democracy that we have,” Tim Kaine said.
“It’s not exactly like it’s a fair fight out there. Ever since I joined this campaign it’s just been amazing. It’s like it’s been two on one every day with the national media doing half of Hillary Clinton’s work for her,” Mike Pence said.
Clinton takes the stage facing challenges of her own. While the electoral map currently leans in her favor, the Democrat is facing a new round of questions about her authenticity and trustworthiness, concerns that have trailed her throughout the campaign.
Clinton’s camp is also continuing to battle the steady stream of embarrassing WikiLeaks emails, including a list emailed from campaign chairman John Podesta to Clinton last March on possibilities for vice president.
Podesta organized the list into “rough food groups” including blacks, women and Hispanics such as Obama administration Cabinet members Julian Castro of Housing and Urban Development and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
Down at the bottom was Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders. Others included Tim Cook of Apple, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, Howard Schultz of Starbucks and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen.
In one of the most recent batches of Podesta’s supposed emails, he also refers to former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders as a “doofus.”
When asked if he wrote that email, Podesta dodged, but did not deny.
“I’ve had a very good relationship with Sen. Sanders and have great affection for him, but when he did criticize the Paris agreement taken the right position,” Podesta said. “I’ll take that as a statement that I have great admiration for Sen. Sanders.”
On Tuesday, Ecuador’s government acknowledged it had “temporarily restricted” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s internet access at its embassy in London after the whistleblowing site published the documents from Clinton’s campaign.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that while it stands by its decision in 2012 to grant Assange asylum, it doesn’t interfere in foreign elections. Leftist President Rafael Correa’s government said it was acting on its own and not ceding to foreign pressures.
The foreign ministry didn’t specify the extent of the restrictions on Assange’s access to the internet, saying only that the restrictions on his communications wouldn’t affect WikiLeaks’ ability to carry out its journalistic activities.
Clinton’s team, meanwhile, says she looking forward to debating the issues.
“This is her last big opportunity to be in front of a big national audience and make her case and she is very much looking forward to that,” said Jen Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has also announced it has changed the way Bill Clinton and Melania Trump enter the debate hall — which means the two spouses will not shake hands prior to the debate.
You can watch the debate on CBS2, streaming live on CBSNewYork.com, or on the CBSNewYork Facebook page starting at 9 p.m.
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