Trump warned on theatrics, Clinton told stick to policy: What to expect in first presidential debate

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump

The first presidential debate of the US election is set to take place on Monday night, with more than 100m viewers expected to tune in as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton go head to head. Moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, thehotly anticipated debate is set to take place at 9pm EST (2am GMT) at Hofstra University, Long Island.

Topics to be discussed, announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates, include America's direction, achieving prosperity and securing America.

While the debate is a chance for the candidates to be questioned on their stances on policies including the economy, immigration, terrorism, security and healthcare, it also promises to be an unpredictable event – with the two candidates already goading one another with their audience selection choices.

Billionaire and Clinton supporter Mark Cuban tweeted he would be at the "humbling at Hofstra", prompting Trump to respond with a suggestion that he would invite Bill Clinton's former lover Gennifer Flowers. He tweeted: "If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!"

It has been reported Trump's campaign team is urging him to stick to a script and stay away from the goading Clinton's campaign team has promised. Both candidates have already begun to dig at one another, with their invitation suggestions being an indicator the candidates could prioritise personal insults above real political discussion.

This type of performance may benefit Trump, who is well known for whipping the crowd up with some well-timed theatrics, but could play poorly for Clinton.

Republican debate coach Brett O'Donnell told The Telegraph: "It's a very big challenge for Hillary Clinton. Everybody who has played on Trump's ground in debates has done poorly. Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, all of them. When they get sucked into the kind of debating Donald Trump does it didn't work out well for them. She should work on a way of staying above the fray."

However, while Clinton will be in new territory facing Trump's confrontational debate style, the GOP candidate has never taken part on a one-on-one debate before and may face problems with outlining clear policies over the 90-minute debate time, and with the lack of feedback from the audience.

Unlike in primary debates, there is strictly no noise from the audience allowed – meaning Trump will not be able to get the noisy response from the crowd he is used to at rallies.

"Trump really fed off the energy of the crowd [in the primary debates]," University of Michigan Debate coach Aaron Kall told The Hill. "Whether positively or negatively, he was able to use it to his advantage.

"One thing to watch in the general election debates is ... it may be difficult for him, because he's not a professional politician and he feeds off the audience. And if that is not there for him, he may not be as effective as a debater."

Both candidates are also likely to face criticism from one another over past mistakes with Clinton's emails and Trump's prior comments about women sure to be part of the inevitable mudslinging.

In this, and subsequent debates, Clinton will want to emphasise her experience – both in politics and on the debate stage, although this could backfire if people make allowances for Trump's relative inexperience in a head-to-head discussion.

For Trump, a win will come if he manages to project a calm demeanour and persuade the audience he could be a composed commander-in-chief.

"If [Hillary] treats me with respect, I'll treat her with respect," he told Bill O'Reilly on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. "She can bait me and I can bait her, and we'll see what happens. [If she does] I can talk about her deleting emails after receiving a subpoena from Congress. We're going to go back and forth. She's got a lot of baggage."

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