Presidential Debate: What to Watch For

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 9.15.08 AMJONATHAN MARTIN

ALEXANDER BURNS

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Good Wednesday morning.
Donald J. Trump has had possibly the most dismal October of any presidential nominee in recent history — and the month is far from over. Facing accusations of sexual harassment and criticism for vulgar and demeaning comments toward women, Mr. Trump limps into Wednesday’s debate, the final one against Hillary Clinton, with polls showing him losing in nearly every state he must win.
Much can happen in politics over three weeks, and this election has been full of surprises. But how he and Mrs. Clinton approach the debate in Las Vegas will go a long way in determining just how sordid the remainder of this race will be. Here are a few of the things we will be watching:
Is Mr. Trump worried about his brand?
Mr. Trump is already the most disliked presidential nominee in the history of polling, and his reputation is unlikely to recover if he continues to peddle conspiracy theories about election fraud and mock the looks of the women who have accused him of sexual assault.
But if he has little left to lose as a politician, Mr. Trump still has significant interests at stake in the race. Many of his business ventures depend on the value of his personal brand, and at some point, he may feel pressure to protect his investments by tempering his machine-gunner’s instincts.
Can Mrs. Clinton find the right tone?
Mr. Trump is not the only one confronting a stark choice about how to proceed. With her campaign expanding to compete in traditionally Republican-leaning states and her advantage growing in most of the battlegrounds, Mrs. Clinton is well positioned as the race enters its final days. Because she is now so heavily favored to win, the debate offers an opportunity for her to start looking beyond the election and toward unifying a country that has been divided by an ugly campaign.
Will Mr. Trump torch his own party?
Snubbed by the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, in the final month of the campaign, Mr. Trump has seemed as eager to attack turncoat leaders in his own party as to make the case against Mrs. Clinton. He has reserved special venom for Mr. Ryan, blasting him as a weak leader and suggesting that Mr. Ryan might be sabotaging Mr. Trump’s campaign to pave the way for a presidential run of his own in four years.
Those attacks have the potential to rip apart the Republican Party in ways that will last long beyond Election Day. Should Mr. Trump use a prime-time debate to sic the Republican base on its leaders, he could inflict damage on the party far deeper than that which Mrs. Clinton might deliver on her own.
A technician worked to prepare voting machines in Philadelphia on Friday for next month’s presidential election.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press
By TRIP GABRIEL

The candidate has issued dark warnings about a “stolen” election, using language that is stirring fears of voter intimidation in minority communities.

A man held a Pepe the Frog picture during a rally for Donald Trump in Bedford, N.H., on Sept. 29. The Anti-Defamation League includes Pepe the Frog in its database of hate symbols, linked with white supremacy.

Damon Winter/The New York Times
By JONATHAN MAHLER

A report by the Anti-Defamation League found a significant uptick in the posts, starting early this year, when the presidential race began to intensify.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
By ERIC LICHTBLAU AND STEVEN LEE MYERS

Brian McCauley said “all bets were off,” though, once he found out the email in question involved the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who famously said that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails” during a Democratic debate last October, appearing with Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Durham, N.H., last month.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER AND YAMICHE ALCINDOR

With a couple of breaks and more fortunate timing, many of the Vermont senator’s supporters believe that he really, truly could have been president.

The altar at St. Patrick Church, a Roman Catholic parish in Malvern, Pa.

Mark Makela for The New York Times
By JASON HOROWITZ

The Democratic candidate’s campaign senses an opportunity to block Donald J. Trump’s narrow path to victory by making inroads with a prized group of voters.

Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, left, introduced Donald J. Trump at a campaign event in New Hampshire on Sept. 29.

Damon Winter/The New York Times
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG

Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn appears likely to emerge as the angry voice of what could best be described as the alternative right of the American national security establishment.

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, emerging onto the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to make a statement in February.

Ecuador Cuts Internet of Julian Assange, Founder of WikiLeaks

By STEVEN ERLANGER AND DAVID E. SANGER

The South American country made it clear it feared it was being sucked into an effort to “interfere in electoral processes” in the United States.

On the Trail

While their running mates prepare for the debate, Mike Pence will have a rally in Colorado and Tim Kaine will have events in Ohio and North Carolina.
Melania Trump and Bill Clinton last month at Hofstra University before the start of the first presidential debate.

At Previous Debates, Melania Trump and Bill Clinton Shook Hands. Not Anymore.

By JEREMY W. PETERS AND MAGGIE HABERMAN

In response to a move by the Trump campaign to showcase women who accused Mr. Clinton of sexual assault, the Clinton campaign has gained approval to change entry protocol.

Bret Baier, Fox’s chief political anchor, said Chris Wallace’s turn as debate moderator was a positive for the network.

New Energy at Fox as Chris Wallace Prepares to Moderate a Presidential Debate

By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM

Recovering from accusations of sexual harassment, Fox News looks forward to the spotlight at the final 2016 debate.

President Obama with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday, before Mr. Obama’s sharp rebuke of Donald J. Trump.

Obama Tells Trump: Stop ‘Whining’ and Trying to Discredit the Election

By MARK LANDLER AND ASHLEY PARKER

At a news conference, the president said Donald J. Trump’s claims showed that the Republican Party’s nominee lacked the leadership or toughness to be president.

Seventh graders in Brent Wathke’s social studies classes at DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire, Wis., clockwise from top left: Emma Johnson, Lorenzo Tovar, Nika Knapp, Paul Harder, Rylea Nall, Gabriel Morken, Mekhi Shaw and Casper Haas.

Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times
By JULIE BOSMAN

In Wisconsin, a crucial swing state, one teacher has aimed for civility in class, but has struggled to discuss the shocking tone of the presidential race.

A group of high school students waiting for the arrival of Donald J. Trump at a recent rally in Charlotte, N.C.

Travis Dove for The New York Times
ROLE MODELS
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER

A presidential candidate’s definition of masculinity prompts a second look at the damaging assumptions behind “boys will be boys.”

THE 2016 RACE
By NATE COHN AND TONI MONKOVIC

History, race, religion, identity, geography: The county-level map from the election four years ago has many stories to tell, including about this year’s race.

<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/20/upshot/electoral-map.html”>The Upshot’s forecast</a> for the presidential race, based on the latest national and state polls, as of Tuesday morning.

THE RUN-UP
By MICHAEL BARBARO

We talk numbers with Nate Cohn, a reporter for The Upshot and our most trusted translator of polls.

Protesters at Trump Tower in New York on Monday. Accusations against Donald J. Trump have led to questions about groping laws.

Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters
By CHARLIE SAVAGE

As women have come forward to accuse Donald Trump of groping them without their consent, the accusations have raised interest in the legal rules about such contact.

Donald J. Trump during a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio last week.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
By LIAM STACK

A People magazine article contains comments supporting the accusations against Donald J. Trump by Natasha Stoynoff, a writer for the publication.

Trump, Honing Outsider Message, Backs Term Limits for Congress

By ASHLEY PARKER

In a speech marked by several forays into other topics, Donald J. Trump unveiled a policy proposal intended to strengthen his populist, anti-Washington appeal.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey speaking to the news media after a debate with his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, in Pittsburgh on Monday. He is one of the senators targeted by Priorities USA, a “super PAC” backing Hillary Clinton.

Pro-Clinton ‘Super PAC’ Aims to Tie Embattled Senators to Donald Trump

By MAGGIE HABERMAN

The group, Priorities USA, will air ads attacking Republican senators in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, a move made possible by Hillary Clinton’s lead over Mr. Trump.

Hillary Clinton attended a fund-raising event in Seattle last week.

No. 39 on Hillary Clinton’s Running Mate List: Bernie Sanders

By AMY CHOZICK

In March, a hacked email shows, Mrs. Clinton was presented with a “first cut” list of vice-presidential prospects by her campaign chairman.

What We’re Reading Elsewhere

The Washington Post looks at Mr. Trump’s claims that he predicted Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and that polls beforehand forecast the vote would go the other way.
USA Today has been tracking online conversations about Mr. Trump and reports that “Every week this month, Donald Trump has shattered his previous records for generating Facebook conversation, and last week users generated more than 307 million likes, comments, shares and posts about him.”
The New Yorker compares the controversy over Mr. Trump’s lewd comments about women and the allegations from several women that he had groped them with his former wife’s claim during their divorce proceedings that he had “violated” her.