The debate, which is in St. Louis, Missouri, will last 90 minutes and be conducted in a "town hall" format featuring questions from undecided voters, moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz. And there will likely be a whole lot of discussion about Donald Trump’s leaked tape scandal, which broke Friday afternoon.
You probably won’t have a hard time tracking down the debate on television, since most major networks and news channels — CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, Univision, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and a few more — will air the debate live.
Online streams will be plentiful too, and one is embedded above.
What to expect at the second Clinton-Trump presidential debate
If the polls are accurate, the first presidential debate last week put Donald Trump on his heels. The Huffington Post’s polling average now shows Clinton ahead by 5.1 percentage points nationally, while RealClearPolitics shows her up by 3.5 percentage points — meaning she got a "bounce" of a few percentage points. Furthermore, according to reporting by the New York Times, both parties’ private polling shows "an even more precipitous drop" for Trump.
All that was before a recording of Trump from 2005 emerged in which he bragged that, because he was famous, he could "grab" women "by the pussy" — a revelation that his brought his campaign to a crisis point and earned a new round of denunciations by leading Republicans, and even calls for him to quit the race entirely. (Trump says he will "never" withdraw.)
Early Saturday morning, Trump released a video apologizing for the old statements but also claiming that it was Bill Clinton who had "actually abused women" and Hillary Clinton who "bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victims." He added: "We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday."
Trump and his allies have gone back and forth about whether he should bring up Bill Clinton’s sexual conduct — he claimed he wanted to broach the topic during the first debate but refrained out of concern for Chelsea Clinton, and then for a few days afterward his allies pursued a weird strategy where they kept mentioning the topic while claiming Trump deserved credit for taking the high ground and avoid it.
The political class generally tends to agree that attacking Hillary Clinton for her husband’s sexual conduct won’t work and might even stoke sympathy for her. So as recently as Wednesday, Trump told the New York Post in an email that he wouldn’t bring up Bill Clinton in the next debate because he wanted "to win this election on my policies for the future, not on Bill Clinton’s past."
The new revelations may have changed his calculus. Trump may want to muddy the waters now that his own sexual conduct is under fire, and he may feel that he has nothing to lose by trying this attack at this point. However, there are other indications that Trump might instead attempt to change the subject back to jobs and characterize the leak as a smear campaign against him.
In any case, there’s little evidence so far that Trump has seriously committed to the debate prep he blew off the first time around, and this recent crisis likely hasn’t helped his concentration much. Trump doesn’t have a lot of experience with the "town hall" format, and when he sort of tried to practice it on Thursday night it did not go well at all. It seems possible that the famously short-tempered Trump could react poorly to a tough question from an undecided voter, since he can’t manage to avoid repeatedly insulting ordinary citizens who get on his nerves.
Furthermore, many of Trump’s problems during the first debate were things he can’t really help with. He really has said a whole lot of racist and misogynistic things. He really has failed to get even a basic grounding in many important policy issues despite being on the campaign trail for over a year. These are things that are difficult to solve at this point.
However, one reason Clinton might have a tougher time this time around is that the tough issues like her email scandal and paid speeches didn’t get a lot of airtime in the first debate, so they seem more likely to come up now. She’ll likely be asked about leaked excerpts from speeches she gave to Wall Street bankers. It’s also possible that, to avoid accusations of bias, moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz will make a more pronounced effort to grill Clinton, akin to Matt Lauer’s performance at an NBC forum in September.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is whether the Clinton campaign will set another trap for Trump, like they did by having Clinton bring up Alicia Machado in the first debate — and whether, if so, Trump will predictably blunder into the trap again. Perhaps he’s learned his lesson and will demonstrate some self control — but perhaps not.
How to watch:
When: 9 pm Eastern
Where: Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
TV: CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, Univision, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, etc.
Online: At the top of this page!