What will the Presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump be like?

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In the US, the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates has proposed three televised Presidential debates in September and October.

It is fascinating to imagine how these will go. On the one hand we’ll have the ultimate cool-headed policy wonk in Hillary. On the other we will have the hot-headed, insult-firing Trump.

Take a look at some clips of Trump at the Republican nomination debates. If these are anything to go by, we’ll have talk about building a wall with Mexico, getting rid of the “lines between the states” on healthcare and a lot of insults.

But will that really work with Hillary? If she is coolly focussing on policy substance, will the bluster of Trump work? Will he have the audacity to call Hillary “crooked” to her face? (He refers to as “Crooked Hillary” regularly). Will he come over as a bully (even more than usual)?

In the words of David Stewart on Quora.com:

Trump will have to change his style and brush up his game. His debate tactics in the past have involved trying to gain attention in a crowded field. He’s been on stage with others who have all been vying for focus and keen to interrupt. His style has involved trying to get in and get a soundbite, insult or zinger out so it makes the news edits while the debate rages around him.

When he’s up against Clinton, he won’t need to fight for attention, he will have to deal with the spotlight. Questions are going to be addressed to him directly and the room will fall silent while they expect a direct answer. And Clinton will be next to him taking notes ready to rebut when he’s finished. It’s not a forum in which Donald is at his best.

There will also be moments when difficult questions about domestic and foreign policy will be asked. That sort of stuff plays directly to Clinton’s strengths. She knows her stuff and can say things like “I remember when I was meeting with David Cameron” or “I was addressing attending this trade conference” She will be able to quote facts and figures and details and look like a woman who knows what she is talking about. Trump has shown that he’s not a details guy and will flounder when pressed for details.

Hillary Clinton has already agreed to the debates. Trump has yet to agree to them. Could it be possible that he will just skip them, as some outsiders fear?


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