Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will make history as they take the stage together for the first time on Monday night (Tuesday morning India time), when they meet in New York for the first of the three presidential debates. It is for the first time in US presidential history that a male and female candidate will be facing off.
Both candidates have a lot at stake and each will have different opportunities and challenges in the debates.
Here are 7 things you need to know, including some you probably didn’t know, about the US presidential debate.
1) Where is it happening and when?
The first debate will be held at the Hofstra University in New York’s Long Island area. Hofstra is no newcomer to the debates, having hosted them in 2008 and 2012.
The debate will air in India at 9 pm ET (6.30 am IST on Tuesday). The questions will focus on three broad themes: America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity and Securing America.
The second debate, on October 9 at Washington University in St Louis, will be moderated by Martha Raddatz of ABC and Anderson Cooper of CNN, while the third debate will be held on October 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. It will be moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.
2) Why is the debate historic?
This will be the first time in history that a male and female candidate will face off on a presidential debate stage. And like it or not, they will be judged differently.
Gender communications research shows that men, when they are aggressive, are received positively. When women are perceived as aggressive, they are received negatively. A lot thus rides on these debates.
3) How does the debate work?
The debate, which will be moderated be NBC News’s Lester Holt, will be 90 minutes long with six 15-minute segments and shall have no commercial interruptions.
Apart from the three broad themes referred to earlier, three more questions related to news events that took place this week will also be put to the candidates.
The moderator will open each segment with a question. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond; each will then be allowed to reply to the other's response. The moderator will use the remaining time for follow-up questions.
Each broad theme will be discussed for 30 minutes.
4) How are the candidates prepping for the debate?
While Clinton has a lengthy record of meticulous preparation and formidable performances, Trump has been more unpredictable on this front. After his controversial utterances he needs to be more a sober candidate and stick to the script.
To prepare for the debate, Clinton has been holding mock debate sessions where her aide Philippe Reines essays the role of Trump.
Trump aides said their candidate, who like Clinton participated in numerous TV debates during their respective parties’ nominating races, was preparing hard for the event. His coaches have focused for weeks on training him to stay on course and not drift off the message by booking events where he is trained to stick to the teleprompter.
5) What are the stakes for the candidates?
Both Clinton and Trump enter the debate as the two most deeply unpopular presidential candidates in recent history. The temerarious Trump needs and will have a chance to show the depth and steadiness worthy of a commander-in-chief.
Clinton will have a chance to prove her honesty (some 55 per cent of American voters fail her on this count) and will also have to prove that she has fully recovered from her recent bout of pneumonia.
6) How many people will watch the debates?
Many observers believe that the size of the audience is expected to challenge the presidential debate record of 80 million who watched the 1980 debate between then president Jimmy Carter and Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.
7) What about the candidates’ running mates?
The vice presidential bets Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana will have one debate at Longwood University in Virgina on October 4. That debate will be moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBS News.