ABC News(LAS VEGAS) — Wednesday night marks something that political reporters, campaign aides and much of the American public have been looking forward to for months, if not more than a year: the closing showdown of the 2016 presidential race.
The third and final presidential debate should be the last time that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump directly address each other ahead of the election on Nov. 8.
After they leave the stage Wednesday night, they’re officially off on their own sprints to the finish, focused on separate campaign events designed to boost their support in the last 20 days of the race.
Here are five story lines to keep in mind while watching the nominees during the debate.
What Happens in Vegas Won’t Stay in Vegas
Wednesday night will be the third and final time that Clinton and Trump will be facing off on the debate stage — this time at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas — marking the beginning of the end to their narrative arch of the general election campaigns.
The past two debates have had the highest audiences in presidential history, and all signs point to Wednesday night’s debate serving to finish out the hat-trick.
Though they both with have a bevy of campaign events over the next 20 days, the likelihood of them reaching the same number of viewers as they do while on the debate stage is unlikely.
As a result, this could be viewed as their last chance to really connect with a number of undecided voters than they will have before the final ballots are cast.
The Final Face Off
Over the course of the first two debates, the candidates have become progressively less cordial. Trump has dropped the pleasantries from the first debate when he referred to Clinton as “Secretary Clinton,” while she addressed him as “Donald.” They both dispensed with the theater of the polite handshake at the start of the second debate.
Though it seems unlikely that they will return to polite etiquette, perhaps a handshake at the start of the third debate could be an olive branch, heading into the final 20 days of the campaigns.
Rhetoric About Rigging
Trump has spent much of the past few days talking about how he believes the election is “rigged,” without providing concrete evidence to support those claims.
He mentioned the “rigged” nature of the election more than 20 times over the weekend, sewing it into the latest iterations of his stump speech and making it a near-certainty that he’ll bring it up tonight.
Exchanges Over Email
Clinton’s campaign has been plagued by questions about her use of a personal email server during her days at the State Department, but the latest email-related scandal appears to be out of their control.
Wikileaks has been releasing internal email communications — talking about campaign strategies and voter groups in some negative lights — between Clinton’s top aides, putting them on the defensive to explain. New leaks seem to be coming in a continual drip, which doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.
Swing State Showdown
Nevada, where the last debate will be held, is one of the states in play right now. ABC News has declared the state a toss-up swing state for the presidential race.
The turmoil goes beyond the top of the ticket, too. There is a close battle for the Senate in the Silver State, since Sen. Harry Reid’s exercise accident prompted him to announce his retirement.
So, while Trump and Clinton will be addressing viewers on the national level, working in some local flavor could help them win over area voters, as well.
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