Everything You Need to Know About Tonight’s Debate


HELL YES, IT’S DEBATE DAY! Take a quick break from tailgating for a moment so that we can run through when the debate airs, what channel the debate is on, how to watch the debate online, what to watch for, and some other key questions.

When is the debate?

The debate starts at 9:00 PM Eastern and runs until 10:30 PM. There are no commercials.


What channel is the debate on?

Pretty much all of ‘em! The debate will air on all four major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC), as well as on CNN, FOX, C-SPAN, and PBS.


Can I watch the debate online?

You certainly can. In addition to all of that cable coverage, you can stream the debate for free on YouTube. If you want to watch a cable network stream, that’s also possible. Cordcutting.com has a good guide to all of the ways you can watch the debate online. I should know, because I wrote it.


What will the candidates talk about during this debate?

The subject of this first debate is penis size. Just kidding! The three subjects being discussed will be “America’s Direction,” “Achieving Prosperity,” and “Securing America.” That most likely means we’ll get a discussion of President Obama’s legacy; trade and the economy; and national security, terrorism, and the refugee crisis.


How much does this debate matter?

Less than most people think, but still more than your snarky poli sci major friend says. There’s some debate (pun intended) as to how much debates can sway voter preference, but it’s clear that debates can affect media narratives and voter enthusiasm. Remember in 2012, when Obama’s disastrous first debate changed the whole campaign for a little while?

FiveThirtyEight’s team speculates that a 3 or 4 point bounce for a big debate showing may be about as much as we can expect, but with a wild card like Trump in play, it’s really hard to say. Suffice it to say that there’s a reason this is expected to be the most-watched debate in history.


What should you watch for?

  • This will be Trump’s first one-on-one debate. In past debates, Trump benefited from the chaos of crowded podiums and was able to dodge questions on policy specifics. Clinton, on the other hand, has extensive experience with one-on-one debates thanks to her primary battles with Barack Obama (2008) and Bernie Sanders (this year).
  • How will moderator Lester Holt handle his duties? Matt Lauer was raked over the coals for handling Trump’s many lies with kid gloves in a pre-debate “forum” that was widely seen as a dry run for tonight’s showdown. Will this prompt Holt to come down harder on Trump in the debate?
  • Speaking of lying, how much lying will go down? Trump lies at historic levels, and Clinton isn’t exactly known for her honesty, either. Will Holt be able to keep up? How will he balance fact-checking?
  • Can Trump keep his cool? Donald Trump’s handlers are perennially concerned with their hothead candidate’s demeanor. The Clinton camp is busy trolling Trump by handing front-row tickets to Trump hater Mark Cuban, and Trump has already let that get under his skin. Can he go the whole debate without calling Clinton some terrible name? TUNE IN AND FIND OUT. This debate is going to be the best.
  • How well will Clinton play defense? How well will she handle insults? It seems safe to say that Trump will at least drop a “crooked” here and there. Clinton has long had optics issues with her reactions to criticism – she tends to come across as condescending or nagging, a weakness that is helped by neither voter sexism nor Clinton’s terrifying laugh. She’ll be on camera for plenty of reaction shots in this debate. How will it go?

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