It may not be the “Thrilla in Manila” that saw Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier go toe-to-toe in what the champion said was the closest to dying he ever came in a fight, but Monday’s match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is set to be the most-watched contest in U.S. political history, with an anticipated 100 million viewers tuning in, far exceeding the 67 million who watched the first Obama-Romney debate in 2012.

Every debate between presidential candidates carries important implications – as Richard Nixon, Mitt Romney, Ronald Reagan and Al Gore proved, but this year’s event is of historical significance as the first female candidate for the presidency and a political outsider duke it out onstage.

Trump battled through 16 Republican candidates during a demanding schedule of 12 debates over seven months in a brash, unorthodox manner calling his opponents names like “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted,” while the politically experienced Clinton faced only token opposition, even receiving an assist from Sen. Bernie Sanders when he brushed off a question about her email scandal.

Clinton drew more attention for her late returns to the debate podium from restroom breaks than she did for any meaningful response or memorable quip, and now questions about her ability to withstand the event – and the optics of it are front and center.

She has suffered prolonged coughing fits throughout the campaign and collapsed with pneumonia at a 9/11 memorial event, but no concessions will be made to accommodate any health issues, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is organizing the debates.

If Clinton is stricken with another coughing fit during the debate, the network will not break for a commercial or cut audio feed from the microphone.

The Commission has also ruled on the 5’4” candidate’s request for a stepstool that would reduce the 10-inch difference in height with the 6’2” Trump – no dice.

There is some speculation about how Trump should respond if Clinton is gripped by more coughing or becomes faint during the debate, with many pundits saying any overt act to come to her aid might be perceived as paternalistic in the highly-charged atmosphere of the first male-female debate.

The debate begins at 9:00 p.m. and will feature six 15-minute segments on “America’s Direction,” “Achieving Prosperity” and “Securing America,” although developing news events, such as the riots in Charlotte, may be added.

 

 

 

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