Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will debate tonight in New York.
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It’s DEBATE NIGHT In America!

We’ve been imaging this day for months. The two least popular major party nominees in history one-on-one in a showdown that could be the most-watched political event of our lifetime.

Remember the smartest girl in your class? The one who always knew the answers and put up her hand first when the teacher asked a question? She never hesitated to let you know she was studying, even while everyone else was at the football game on Friday night. You deep down resented her because, well, she was just smarter than you.

Then there was the rich guy in class who was obnoxious and put everybody down. He claimed he was the smartest guy in the room, no, the smartest in the whole school, but everybody just snickered at him. He was harmless, but loud, and found a way not to be drafted after graduating because he didn’t have time for all that.

Welcome to the first presidential debate of 2016.

On one side, Hillary Clinton, the smartest politician in America. On the other, Donald Trump who thinks he’s the smartest person who ever lived.

In the first 30 minutes of the debate we’ll know if the narrow polls are likely to swing. If history is our guide they won’t, although a steady Trump could convince most Republicans to come home.

HOW HILLARY CLINTON CAN WIN DEBATE:

She can’t.

Hillary Clinton is the smartest politician in America. She knows the world and every world leader. She has every fact and statistic at her disposal. But just like the smartest kid in class is expected to ace the test, there is nothing Clinton can do that will be above what voters expect of her. Her best case scenario is that undecided and independent voters wake up and realize the presidency is not a reality TV show.

HOW HILLARY CLINTON CAN LOSE THE DEBATE:

  1. Get one fact wrong. If Clinton says something factually incorrect the media will pounce on it and make reference to it for days even if Trump doesn’t give one solid policy proposal of his own.
  2. Have a coughing spell. Clinton’s poll numbers took a big hit after she was forced to take a few days off due to pneumonia. If she has to step away from her lectern to cough, she loses.
  3. Look too mean. As the first woman nominated from a major political party, Clinton still has to show that she can smile and be a mom and grandmother at heart.
  4. Look too weak. As the first woman nominated from a major political party, Clinton still has to show that she’s tough enough to bomb terrorists when she sees them.
  5. Wear the wrong clothes. As the first woman nominated from a major political party, Clinton had better make sure she’s wearing the right color jacket, has the right makeup, and her hair is the right style. (Is it a double standard when all Trump has to do is wear his blue suit and red tie? You bet.)

HOW DONALD TRUMP CAN WIN THE DEBATE:

  1. Don’t foam at the mouth.
  2. Don’t shoot an audience member.
  3. Don’t point out Lester Holt as your “favorite black.” (actually, that probably won’t matter).
  4. Do interrupt Clinton at one point and deliver a witty “you’re fired!”
  5. End every answer with “it’s going to be fantastic and we’ll make America great again.”

HOW DONALD TRUMP CAN LOSE THIS DEBATE:

He can’t.

Expectations are low. Donald Trump just has to stand next to the experienced know-it-all Clinton for 90 minutes and prove to the angry, white, non-college educated, working class voters in battleground states that a 70 year old billionaire, who lives in a gold tower in New York City, is really just one of them.

He’s done it so far.

HOW THE PRESS WILL HELP TRUMP:

The media, always wanting to balance political coverage, will treat the answers from both Clinton and Trump as equal. Despite the fact Clinton will likely give detailed responses to tough questions, her soundbites will be the same length, or probably less, than the simplistic witty soundbites of Trump.

Let’s be honest: We in the media are hoping for a Trump win as much as his supporters. He’s great for ratings and our bottom line. What a dream for the next four years.

Let the debate begin! We will be doing fact checking live on Twitter, be sure to follow @JimHeathTV!

About Jim Heath

Jim Heath is the author of the new best seller Front Row Seat at the Circus - One Journalist's Journey through Two Presidential Elections. The book is about Jim's experiences covering the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns - from South Carolina, the first southern primary state, to Ohio, the ultimate battleground state in presidential elections. A recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism, Jim is also a two-time Emmy award winner with more than 15 years experience as both a main evening anchor and political reporter. A longtime advocate of social media, GQ Magazine listed Jim on their Top 5 political "Power List" and the Washington Post named him to their "Best Super Tuesday Twitter List." Jim's news career has taken him from Arizona to South Carolina to Ohio.

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