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First presidential debate live stream: Trump vs. Clinton time, TV schedule, and how to watch online

The first general election debate is here: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face off Monday, September 26, at 9 pm Eastern for 90 minutes — no breaks.

The debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and moderated by NBC Nightly News's Lester Holt. It will be aired live on all major stations — CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, Univision, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN — and is also live-streaming on NBC News's YouTube page (video above). The themes, as presented by Holt, are "America's Direction," "Achieving Prosperity," and "Securing America."

Both camps have been vocal about the debate; Trump launched a preemptive attack calling Holt a Democrat and claiming the debate is rigged against him. (Holt is a registered Republican.)

On the flip side, Clinton’s campaign has been advocating for live fact-checking at the debate, in light of Commander-in-Chief Forum host Matt Lauer’s failure earlier this month to correct Trump’s lie that he never supported the Iraq War.

It’s an important event for both candidates, who are in a tight race. In addition to the debate itself swaying the polls by a few points, the post-debate media spin war could prove to be just as important.

As Ezra Klein has observed, "This campaign is not merely a choice between the Democratic and Republican parties but between a normal political party and an abnormal one."

And Trump is bringing expectations down — his campaign is even downplaying his prep — knowing that throughout this election he has been praised for any semblance of self-control. Clinton, known to be a talented debater, has been judged by a different standard as a career politician. "Because expectations are so low for Trump, it will be difficult for him to lose the debate" if he chooses to calm his rhetoric, Purdue University political scientist Josh Scacco said.

As Scacco notes, it will be important to watch "whether Hillary Clinton can match already high expectations for her debate performance and conversely whether Donald Trump is declared a winner for merely being better than everyone anticipates."

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