HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The eyes of the nation and much of the world will focus on the debate stage at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island Monday night.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump will come face-to-face for the first time, in a matchup that is expected to draw the biggest audience in the history of American politics.
Some have estimated that as many as 100 million viewers will tune in for the 90-minute debate.
“Probably one of the most important presidential debates in American history,” said former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Trump supporter.
The polls show the race in a virtual dead heat, so the debate could be a game changer.
This is the third straight election cycle that Hofstra has hosted the presidential candidates, and everything about the campaign outcome is unpredictable.
Giuliani has been advising Trump on the showdown.
“if it’s about the contrast in their ideas — growth as opposed to dependency, strong America as opposed to a weak America — I think Donald Trump will do very, very well,” Giuliani said.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway predicts the novice candidate to hit a home run.
“He’s like the Babe Ruth of debating,” Conway said. “He really shows up and swings and does a great job.”
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said Trump will be well-prepared.
“He’s going to focus in this debate tomorrow night as he has throughout this election on the issues the American people care about,” Pence said.
But Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook presented Trump as unpredictable.
“No one knows what Donald Trump’s going to show up to this debate,” he said.
Mook said Trump’s performance will be telling.
“His erratic temperament has been a subject of quite a bit of discussion in the debate, and I would argue it’s why he is not fit and prepared to be president,” Mook said.
The Clinton camp said Trump’s temperament and policy detail will be telling.
“Hillary has been very specific about policy plans. Tomorrow is an opportunity to see whether Donald will be specific about what he proposes to do,” said Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine.
Hofstra professor Dr. Tomeka Robinson said two qualities will identify the debate winner.
“A, they’re able to very clear about their policy and B, that they’re likable and approachable to the audience,” Robinson said.
Both candidates spent Sunday off the campaign trail, but both then met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Foreign policy will be one of the debate topics, along with American prosperity and the nation’s bitterly divided political climate.
The Trump campaign said Tuesday night that Gennifer Flowers will not be in the audience at the debate. Accordign to a transcript by “Fox News Sunday,” Pence says “Gennifer Flowers will not be attending the debate tomorrow night.”
Pence spoke after Trump tweeted Saturday that he might ask Flowers to sit in the audience. Flowers claimed that she and Clinton’s husband, Bill, had a long-term affair. The allegation nearly derailed Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. He acknowledged having caused pain in his marriage and went on to win two terms as president.
Earlier Sunday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on ABC’s “This Week” that Flowers has a right to attend the debate if “somebody else gives her a ticket.”
Both candidates will face off in their first debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, each with a different approach on their plan of attack.
Trump issued the warning on Twitter, after Clinton extended the invitation to businessman Mark Cuban.
Flowers is an ex-model who made headlines after having a relationship with Bill Clinton.
Security has been stepped up on the Hofstra campus. Roads are closed, metal detectors are up, and miles of security fencing is in place.
CBS2 asked students what issues they want the candidates to address on Monday night, and terrorism was certainly one of them.
“We are living in a chaotic world right now and something needs to be done,” said Hofstra freshman Stephan Bacil.
“I think something about college tuition, and loans, and stuff that we are going to have to deal with if we’re going to be able to get jobs after we graduate,” said Hofstra sophomore Jordan Farr.
“I just want them to be political candidates instead of bullies to each other,” said Hofstra law student Michael Guttentag. “I think they’re just bullying each other at this point.”
Indeed, the event is drawing plenty of interest from local Hofstra students. About 7,500 students, or more than two-thirds of the student body, entered the lottery for only a few hundred tickets to witness the cycle’s first presidential debate, being held Monday night in a campus basketball arena.
More than 800 students applied for about 500 jobs as volunteer staff for the event.
Some will be helping in the media center, where thousands of journalists will gather to file stories as the debate unfolds. Others will be handing out credentials, shuttling VIPs, serving as network production assistants or working as debate hall ushers.
Hofstra political science professor Richard Himmelfarb said he finds most of his students are “really turned off by this election.” Most view the election as a choice between the lesser of two evils.
“They’re interested in the debate, but much in the same way as they view reality television,” Himmelfarb said. “They’re fascinated to see what happens when Donald Trump shows up on the national debate stage. I think they view it similar to a car crash; the `anything can happen, unpredictability’ aspect has their attention.”
He said Hofstra has strived to use the event as a teaching tool. “The university has attempted to try and elevate the debate and they want students to consider more substantive questions.”
More than 1,000 police officers and FBI personnel will be present at the debate, and commuters should plan alternate routes in light of area road closures.
As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, the incredible amount of security means that Hempstead Turnpike, which cuts right through the campus, will be closed to vehicles most of the day.
The wide six-lane road has stores on the south side. They have been advised to close.
Laura, an employee of the Starbucks on the road, said her store will close at noon and does anticipate losing business. But down the street, a Papa John’s pizza store manager said he will stay open and is fine with losing some money given the importance of the event.
And back in New York City, some bars will be hosting debate viewing parties – among them the Village Pourhouse Downtown at 64 Third Ave. in the East Village. Manager Brian Rasmussen said he thinks some of the hundreds of people expected to attend.
“Everyone wants to see what kind Trump will say, what crazy stuff he’ll say, and if Hillary will lie or whatever,” he told WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini.
For those who care about the issues, Rasmussen said the bar will do its best to keep things quiet so people can hear what the candidates have to say. He said plenty of security will be on hand to make sure political rivalries don’t get too out of hand.
You can watch the debate on CBS2 at 9 p.m. Monday night.
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