Tuesday 28 February 2017

Trump V Clinton - TV spat promises the unexpected

White House rivals face a final TV reckoning in front of 100 million viewers where all will be won or lost. But what can we expect, asks Matt Frei

Matt Frei

Republican Donald Trump. Picture: AP
Republican Donald Trump. Picture: AP

In the blood sport of American presidential campaigns it doesn't get more gladiatorial than the three one-on-one debates that take place in the final sprint before the vote. It is America's version of a medieval joust. Given that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been at each other's throats from afar for months, and that tomorrow night they will be sitting or standing in spitting - if not grabbing - distance from one another, the host broadcaster NBC is predicting TV dynamite.

In the corridors of broadcasting power salivating executives are forecasting Superbowl-sized audiences of 100million or more for the first 90-minute duel (without ad breaks) in a presidential election that has turned out to be a ratings gift.

Both candidates are understandably nervous about the debate, and while some of their staff have been briefing that they matter far less than we, the broadcasters, believe, that's nonsense. They always matter and sometimes they are decisive.

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