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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump trade blows at first presidential debate

September 26, 2016 - UNITED STATES

Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York, hosts the first of three bare-knuckle debates between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ahead of the U.S. election on Nov 8.

The other two are scheduled for Oct 9 and 19.

The contenders for the nation's top job will challenge each other on domestic and foreign policy, and save their best jabs for their rival's vulnerabilities. Lester Holt, the NBC anchor who is moderating the debate, will ask the candidates about "achieving prosperity," "securing America" and "America's direction."

The biggest policy differences between the two candidates lie in taxation and immigration, and they can give free rein to both topics within the three official debate questions.

Clinton's whole platform has taken a more liberal turn in the aftermath of her tough primary election contest against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist. Her vulnerabilities, which will be portrayed as scandals by Trump, include her use of her private server for sensitive emails while she was the country's top diplomat. Emerging revelations in the emails about links between the State Department during her time in office and the Clinton Foundation, the charity run by her family, represent a bonus for Trump.

Trump's taxation and other economic policies generally favour wealthy Americans, though much of his support comes from disenfranchised blue-collar workers. His hard line against illegal immigrants and Muslim immigration, as well as his personal insults and proliferation of conspiracy theories, have helped strengthen his base. His vulnerabilities include Trump University. The majority owner of the university, he has been dogged by allegations of fraud from former students. His refusal to release copies of his tax returns, expected of presidential candidates, could also undermine his efforts.

The online magazine Politico observes that Trump has been propagating, and now creating, conspiracy theories as a major theme of his campaign. One states that the election will be rigged in Clinton's favour, a theory that has dangerous implications, according to the U.S.-based publication.

Primary debate schedule and presidential debates (Election Central 2016)

The Potential Political Consequences Of The Trump University Documents (NPR 1 Jun 2016)

Sanders: I'm Heading to the Convention Even If Clinton Sweeps Calif., NJ Primaries (ABC 30 May 2016)

Change of venue

The 5 Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theories of 2016 (Politico 22 Aug 2016)

Date written/update: 2016-09-20