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What Went Down In The Third Presidential Debate

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11:12 PM
No More Debate

That puts a bow on the third presidential debate and on the 2016 debates generally. As usual, you can re-experience the final debate’s splendor by starting at the bottom of this live blog and scrolling up. You can also listen to our post-debate Elections podcast, or watch video of the taping below.

I also asked our staff to play our traditional fill-in-the-blank end-of-debate game: “Tomorrow’s main post-debate headline will be about __________.”

Harry: Trump won’t say he will respect the result of the election as legitimate.

Clare: The undermining of democratic processes by a major party candidate on national television.

Nate: Apart from (not) respecting the election results: That Trump couldn’t really hold it together enough to give himself a chance, despite some stronger moments here and there.

Carl: Trump on whether he’ll commit to conceding if he loses: “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?”

Seth: Trump’s refusal to say he’ll accept the outcome of the election.

Maggie: We are all in suspense now. Citizens. Journalists. And even the ghosts of dead generals.

Julia: The failure to commit to whether he’ll accept the election results or not.

10:54 PM

I’ve been watching CNN, and the commentators have been going back and forth between talking about how Trump said he wouldn’t necessarily concede and how he gave up an opportunity to talk about Bill Clinton’s accusers.

10:53 PM

Debate No. 3 hit on most of the major scandals of this election:

Clinton emails 4
Trump taxes 4
Birtherism 2
Putin/Russia 1
Trump sexual assault allegations 0 5
The Khan family 0 3
Scandals that were discussed the most at the debates
10:53 PM

National Review editor Rich Lowry just tweeted that Clinton “never made a major mistake” in the three debates. I think this is correct — she managed not to have any moments along the lines of “you didn’t build that” or “basket of deplorables.” She’s not noted as a particularly brilliant or moving communicator, but it seems like people on both sides agree that she’s been competent and clear. This is a change after the charisma of her husband, the soaring rhetoric of candidate Obama, and the folksy charm of George W. Bush. Whether that matters, I guess, remains to be seen.

10:51 PM

Students are filing out of the UNLV debate party. On the way in, the campus grounds were filled with colorful characters wearing their opinions on their sleeves or, in this case, on their chests. I heard supporters of various candidates arguing with each other — sometimes respectfully, other times using profanity-laced streams of insults. Tonight’s debate is unlikely to change the minds of hardcore supporters, and it’s not clear yet whether it can sway even the undecided.

10:47 PM

At the start of the night, I said I hoped tonight’s discussion would focus more on policy than the first two debates. I wasn’t too optimistic. But while there were certainly plenty of interruptions, non sequiturs and ad hominem attacks, tonight really did end up featuring a lot of substantive discussion. The discussions of taxes, the economy and foreign policy were pretty familiar by now, but we also got some exchanges on issues that had been ignored in the previous debates, such as immigration and abortion.

10:46 PM

So it looks like this was Trump’s most interjecty debate yet. Might be worth revisiting our story about why we separately count interruptions and interjections and how even social scientists have a hard time defining what an interruption is.

10:46 PM
10:46 PM

As the debate ends, we’re seeing supporters of the candidates greet them in the hall. Perhaps not surprisingly, Trump invited Sarah Palin to the debate. I think that fact, more than anything, speaks to Trump’s inability or unwillingness to play to the center. He’d rather have the support of someone who just 13 percent of Americans said would make them more likely to vote for Trump if she were the vice presidential nominee, compared to 42 percent who said it would make them less likely to vote for a Trump ticket.

10:43 PM

So I’m off to be a guest on the “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” — watch me at about 11:30 Eastern time tonight! But a very quick thought or two. If it weren’t for “such a nasty woman” and Trump refusing to commit to respecting the election results, maybe you could call it a draw. I don’t think so, because I thought Clinton was more consistent from start to finish. But maybe? I’m reluctant to conclude very much until I see how voters react.

But the thing is, even a draw would be a bad outcome for Trump, who is 7 points behind Clinton and has few remaining opportunities to catch up. I don’t know that Trump is necessarily going to fall further in the polls, because he’s fallen pretty far already and he gave his 35 percent base some things to be energized about tonight.

But this wasn’t the performance he needed. And “such a nasty woman” and electoral integrity are, at a minimum, going to be major news stories for the next few days, and not ones that will redound to Trump’s benefit. He’s running out of ways to win this election, apart from a major polling error.

10:43 PM

It’s pretty much a cliché at this point, but Clinton’s style is clearly to prepare and Trump’s is clearly to go with his gut. She was able to convert every comment he made into an attack on an area of weakness for him. I don’t know that Trump would be doing better in this election if he’d prepped more for the debates or if he was even prep-able. But like many other aspects of this campaign — including ground game, fundraising and advertising — Clinton took it seriously and Trump didn’t.

10:42 PM
Interruptions at all three debates
10:42 PM

Trump’s response to a question about taxes and entitlements was, “I would repeal Obamacare.” It’s not news that candidates don’t always answer the questions, and Clinton has infamously dodged questions about emails and transparency. But adding in material that wasn’t directly relevant to the question is a sneaky rhetorical tactic — it interrupts the logical flow of the question and answer. This doesn’t invite listeners in to follow his thought process — it shuts them out.

10:40 PM

Trump said of Clinton’s and fellow Democratic candidates’ relationships with black and Latino voters: “They get the vote and then they come back. They say, ‘We’ll see you in four years.'” He has a point about black voters: My colleague Farai Chideya has pointed out that, historically speaking, black voters have been so loyal to Democratic candidates that the politicians who get black voters’ support haven’t had to take African-Americans’ concerns into account once in office.

10:39 PM

Trump used his closing statement to talk about violence in inner cities and how it affects African-Americans. It’s true that homicide is up in many cities and that African-Americans are disproportionately the victims of gun violence. But as Simone Sebastian wrote in The Washington Post after the last debate, Trump’s use of “inner city” as a synonym for “black” is badly outdated. More African-Americans now live in the suburbs than in the city.

10:37 PM

This debate is over. As I wrote before the debate, it’s unlikely that this debate will change the current polls. That means that Clinton will continue to be a heavy favorite to win the presidency.

10:37 PM

Voices of Nevada Voters: Mike Maxwell, 47, technology consultant

Former Bernie Sanders supporters Mike Maxwell said that he’s “not a massive fan” of Clinton but believes “she will be capable.” Maxwell moved here two years ago from Colorado. He describes Nevada voters as conservative-leaning but mainly independent opportunity-seekers. “People see Vegas as a place where things can happen,” he said. “Hard work is a big value.”

Maxwell called tonight’s debate a “waste of time and energy and even money.” He believes that nearly all voters have made up their mind.

10:36 PM

Trump objects to Wallace’s question implying that his plan would add to the debt. But pretty much all independent experts say Wallace is right and Trump is wrong. Even if you accept the analysis of the Tax Foundation, a conservative group, Trump’s plan would add trillions to the debt over the next decade.

10:36 PM

The issue of health care gives you an idea of how weak Trump’s campaign has been. Although more Americans than not dislike Obamacare, the majority of Americans trust Clinton over Trump on health care. A stronger Republican candidate might have been able to take advantage of most Americans’ negative view of Obamacare, but Trump couldn’t.

10:36 PM

Health insurance premiums are going up this year (though by how much really varies depending on where you live), and a lot of insurers have exited the insurance marketplaces created by Obamacare, leaving people with fewer options in many places. It’s going to be hard to get the 13.8 million people signed up that the federal Department of Health and Human Services says it is expecting. But this is the first year that the full effect of the individual mandate will be in place, with individuals looking at fines of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income (whichever is higher) if they don’t have insurance. This article from CNBC gets at some of the complexity of who paid how much last year and what to expect in 2017.

10:35 PM
Is Expanding Social Security The First Step To A Universal Basic Income?

Clinton not only vows to protect Social Security, she also hopes to expand it to widows and those who take time off from work to care for for a family member. Just one step beyond expanding Social Security is to guarantee an income to all Americans. That’s called a universal basic income — everyone, rich or poor, working or unemployed, gets the same amount of money. It’s a popular policy idea that’s being tested in several countries.

10:33 PM

“Such a nasty woman” is a thing that Trump just said about Clinton on the debate stage.

10:33 PM

10:33 PM

The real winner from these debates may be the Committee for a Responsible Budget, which has been mentioned both tonight and in the vice presidential debate. As Andrew said, the debt didn’t get much attention during the primary, but the group has clearly gotten the attention of the journalists writing debate questions.

10:33 PM

Trump’s stance on entitlements is unusual for a GOP nominee. “Let’s protect our Social Security and Medicare,” Trump has said. He is opposed to raising the Social Security retirement age; he has also said he would “save” Social Security “without cuts.” That’s a rhetorical change from what recent GOP nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain have proposed; theirs focused on the looming depletion of the trust fund. Most importantly, Trump’s views on entitlements are a 180-degree turn from the plans put forth by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

10:32 PM

10:31 PM
Is Social Security Facing A Crisis?

“Social Security is going bankrupt” is a common talking point. But is it true? The benefits of those who currently get Social Security are funded by the payroll taxes of those who are currently working; any excess money is funneled into a trust fund, which pays out when promised benefits outstrip revenues. As the U.S. economy undergoes major demographic changes — namely the retirement of the baby boomers — the trust fund has been paying out more than it takes in. It’s projected to be depleted in 18 years (or by 2034), according to the 2016 Social Security Trustees report.

That sounds dire. But all is not lost! There are modest fixes that could restore the trust fund, like raising the amount of income subject to payroll taxes (a Democratic favorite) or raising the retirement age (what Republicans prefer). Either way, Social Security is fixable. But that’s not to say nothing must be done.

10:31 PM

We’re recording a wrap-up FiveThirtyEight Elections podcast soon after the debate ends. We’ll live-stream video right here on this site and on our Facebook page. So what should we discuss? What’s your main headline from tonight and question about tomorrow? Tweet me. (And while I have you, think about subscribing to the Elections podcast, OK?)

10:30 PM

To call the national debt a “problem,” as Chris Wallace just did, is to editorialize. Running a national debt is not an inherently bad or undesirable thing. To take up precious debate time demanding that the candidates solve a problem that isn’t actually a problem is a waste.

10:29 PM

“I am not going to let anyone into this country who is not vetted, who we do not have confidence in,” Clinton said. Trump has called for extreme vetting of people coming to the U.S. from countries including Syria. Just how are refugees from Syria vetted? A Congressional Research Service report lays out the intense process. (Find it and other CRS reports now, at last, with a new database of searchable reports.)

10:29 PM

Chris Wallace just asked why the candidates are ignoring the national debt. One reason might be that few voters say it’s the most important problem. In the most recent Gallup poll, only 3 percent said the federal deficit or debt is. In other words, the candidates talk about the issues that voters care about, and there are many other issues that voters care about more.

10:28 PM
Is The Debt A Problem?

The federal debt is big by historical standards, as moderator Chris Wallace suggests. That’s partly because of stimulus spending during the Great Recession and partly because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But after shrinking for most of Obama’s term, deficits are now poised to rise again, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

So is the debt a problem? Economists generally agree that at some point, a country’s debt becomes a drag on economic growth and can even be destabilizing. But they disagree about where that point lies. Most economists think the U.S. is still well on the safe side of that line, although some are more worried than others about the country’s longer-run fiscal outlook.

10:27 PM

We’ve had shockingly few presidents born in major cities, although Teddy Roosevelt was born in New York. But we’ll get one this year. Trump is from Queens, as Clinton said just now. And Clinton was born in Chicago.

10:26 PM

Chris Wallace is right: the debt and deficit have barely been discussed during this election cycle.

10:26 PM

We’re shifting to a section of the debate that’s meant to focus on “debt and entitlements.” That topic was a controversial selection in some circles, especially after both of the economy-focused questions in the vice presidential debate were framed in the context of government deficits. Liberal groups argue that at a time when interest rates are low (which makes it cheap to borrow money) and the economy is still recovering from the Great Recession, the government should be spending more, not less. Conservative groups, of course, disagree, arguing (among other things) that interest rates can always rise. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates for reducing the federal deficit, put out a press release today praising the topic selection.

10:26 PM

Jacob Thompson is the head debate coach of the award-winning team at tonight’s host, UNLV, and an associate professor in residence in the Department of Communications Studies. He said the university has used tonight to give students opportunities to volunteer in the debate process and even teach classes about the presidential debate. “Debate is responsible for everything good that happened to me in life,” he said — a college scholarship to Wayne State University, where he got not only to debate but also to judge younger student debaters including our own Nate Silver; funds for graduate school, where he met his wife; and now the chance to coach in Las Vegas.

This game of “mental chess with words … is one of the most challenging activities any student can participate in,” he said. But when asked how the candidates compare to student debate, he said, “We have rules. We respect our opponents and the institution of debate. Both candidates have not been incredibly respectful to each other.” As a father, he says, he sometimes turns off election coverage when his children are in the room. “If I was the coach for both candidates, I would respectfully ask them to be more respectful to each other.”

10:24 PM

Trump is right that the U.S. gave Iran $1.7 billion in cash — cash, because sanctions have cut off Iran from the international finance system, and most of the $1.7 billion being interest on $400 million worth of Iranian money held by the U.S. since the 1970s. It’s doubtful that $1.7 billion would take up the whole stage, as Trump said, although the money sent to Iran wasn’t sent in U.S. currency.

10:24 PM

Trump just praised Assad in the debate. In case I need to spell this out: Assad is a dictator who has slaughtered his own citizens and has used mustard gas. Assad is also in an alliance with Russia, so perhaps that’s where Trump got his idea about the man’s leadership abilities?

10:24 PM

Clinton asked the audience to Google “Donald Trump Iraq.” Some people have been.

10:23 PM

So far, Clinton is bringing up scandals more often than anyone else on stage. She mentioned 11 of Trump’s scandals, Trump has mentioned two of Clinton’s scandals, and the moderator has mentioned two scandals.

10:22 PM

When asked whether he would accept a Clinton victory in November, Trump’s ultimate response was, “I’ll keep you in suspense.” I don’t mean to editorialize here, but this is perhaps the most alarming thing I’ve heard a presidential candidate say on a debate stage. In some ways, this is almost as bad — or maybe worse — than Trump coming out and saying he wouldn’t accept a loss. There are two principles at stake beyond accepting the legitimacy of the election system. The first is being honest about one’s plans and stances. The American presidency is not the latest Tana French novel — leaders can’t keep the people in suspense. The second is that presidential candidates cannot cast themselves in the role of investigating elections. Trump can’t do this, Clinton can’t do this. The only answer is that evaluating the fairness of the election is up to the commissions that are appointed to do this, not to the candidates themselves. Regardless of your policy beliefs, this is not how democracy works.

10:22 PM

Clinton is on friendly ground any time the discussion turns to foreign policy. She leads Trump by an 18 percentage point margin in the most recent Fox News poll on who Americans trust more on foreign policy. It’s one of her largest leads on any issue, which shouldn’t be too surprising given Clinton is the former secretary of state. The longer this discussion goes on, the better it is for Clinton.

10:21 PM

The debate is going to move on to standard debate subjects now, but it’s impossible to forget that a truly extraordinary moment just occurred, one that will become the signal clip from this debate and possibly this campaign. A candidate representing one of the two major parties refused to accept the outcome of an American election. Think of the implications of that: Not only does it risk civil violence on the part of supporters who will be similarly encourage to resist an election, but it undermines the most fundamental democratic institution on which the country is based. Imagine the reaction of countries struggling to achieve democracy when a candidate questions whether an American ideal is legitimate. The political system will survive Trump, but the cynicism and doubt sown tonight will take a long time to heal.

10:18 PM

I have a sneaking suspicion that someone on the Clinton debate team got really good at imitating Trump’s favorite interjection of  “wrong” during her prep for tonight. From the first debate to tonight, she’s become more deft at continuing in her points, going a bit more for the jugular.

10:18 PM

The Democrats in my Twitter feed seem quite pleased with Clinton’s performance tonight. So at the risk of being slightly repetitive: keeping her current voters happy would be a highly valuable accomplishment for Clinton. She has 45 to 46 percent of the vote now in polls and will probably need only about 47 percent to clinch the popular vote, assuming that about 6 percent of the vote goes to third-party candidates. So if she keeps that base ready to vote for her, she doesn’t have much further to go. That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be ways for Trump to win, but he might need an Electoral College/popular vote split — or a big polling error that was inflating Clinton’s numbers all along.

10:18 PM

Voices of Nevada Voters: Raul Martinez, 45, project manager and wedding officiant

Raul Martinez was born in Mexico City, came to the United States two decades ago, and is now a technical project manager at Cox Communications. He’s been a U.S. citizen since 2001. He supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and describes himself as a “reluctant” Clinton supporter. The issues most important to him are climate change and income inequality. “We’re risking toppling over capitalism with such a heavy top,” he said.

Martinez’s wife is from a Filipino family, and his immigrant parents-in-law are “huge Republicans,” as are his sister-in-law and her husband. “This is an embarrassing time for them,” he said. “They don’t want to talk about it.” He said he thinks they will still vote for Trump. If we talk about Trump, they switch to ‘What about Benghazi?’ and ‘What about the emails?’”

Martinez is also a wedding officiant who often presides over ceremonies in costume or character — including one time as Trump.

10:17 PM

With the debate turning to ISIS and terrorism, it’s worth noting that Republicans’ fear of Islamic fundamentalism as a critical threat is at its highest level since the Chicago Council on Global Affairs started asking Americans about it in 1998. Three out of four Republicans name Islamic fundamentalism as a critical threat, up from a prior high of 70 percent in 2002, the year after the 9/11 attacks. Just 49 percent of Democrats agree.

10:15 PM

We’ve seen an awful lot of wild moments during the debates, and we still have a little bit of this debate left, but the exchange about accepting the results of the election felt like the most critical one of all three debates so far. Three weeks before we vote, we’re having arguments about the basic execution of our democracy.

10:14 PM

Trump said less than a month ago, at the first presidential debate: “If she wins, I will absolutely support her.” At the time, it sounded to me like it might be a hopeful sign that he would accept the election’s outcome, no matter what it was. His repetition of the idea that the election was rigged, in the subsequent weeks and tonight, sounds like a change of tone — though perhaps in his view, if the election is rigged for Clinton, then Clinton wouldn’t really win. (By the way, there is no evidence that the election is rigged.)

10:13 PM

There’s a bit of a debate in political science about whether negativity turns people off of politics or whether it can actually be productive. Most of the research focuses on advertising. Early studies suggested that negativity confirmed people’s worst fears about politics and thus diminished interest in participation. Later studies have challenged this finding, and one scholar has argued that negative advertisements can be more informative than positive ads.

But the negativity in this campaign has been something else, and the debates have been very heavy on character attacks. In terms of the overall impact on the health of American democracy, I think there’s one thing that’s particularly concerning: These two candidates, whose personal conduct and character have been impugned over and over, both went through competitive primaries. There were other candidates. Clinton and Trump both won their nominations, fairly and decisively. But for people who might tune in sporadically, the conclusion that this is the best we can do might produce real dismay.

10:13 PM

Some prominent Republicans, including Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, have fought back against Trump’s claims — repeated tonight — that the election may be rigged. Husted, who said he would vote for Trump, also said: “I can reassure Donald Trump — I am in charge of elections in Ohio, and they’re not going to be rigged,” adding that the election process “is bipartisan, it’s transparent, and there’s just no justification for concern about widespread voter fraud.”

10:12 PM

Keep in mind that only a minority of voters (41 percent) think this election could be stolen, according to Morning Consult. That’s a high percentage, but Trump’s point of view is not winning the day. He’s likely hurting his chances when he keeps saying things are rigged, speaking to his base but not winning over new voters.

10:11 PM

So a major-party presidential nominee just refused, at a presidential debate, to say he would accept the outcome of the presidential election. Now, there’s all sorts of reasons why this is dangerous and disqualifying talk. But basically, Trump’s gonna say what Trump’s gonna say. The real test will be, assuming he loses, for other Republicans to reject Trump’s claims.

10:10 PM

This seems to be the Pew Research Center report that Trump is talking about, in regards to voter fraud.

10:10 PM

There was an interesting tidbit in that exchange over Trump’s taxes. Clinton said Trump hasn’t “paid a penny” in federal income taxes. That goes beyond the evidence that’s been publicly uncovered; tax documents obtained by The New York Times suggested Trump might have been able to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years. But Trump didn’t deny Clinton’s claim. Is it possible Trump isn’t paying taxes even now?

10:09 PM

People have been saying that this is a “greatest hits” debate, which sounds about right. I suppose if you like Trump, you’ll like his debate performance, and if you like Clinton, you’ll like her debate performance. The thing is, a lot more people like Clinton than like Trump.

10:09 PM

Well, there’s the scariest moment of the debate, folks. In response to a question from Wallace about whether or not he would accept the results of the election — a grand American tradition all about the peaceful transfer of power — Trump simply said:

“I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now.”

10:09 PM

Trump is technically right: When his foundation paid $120,000 in 2007 to settle fines assessed against one of his for-profit businesses, the money went to charities. But generally, money paid under duress to settle a lawsuit against a company isn’t what people mean when they talk about spending foundation money for charity. (This and other revelations about the Trump Foundation come via the excellent reporting of The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold.)

10:07 PM

Trump says Warren Buffett has taken large depreciation deductions similar to the one Trump himself took. Buffett has explicitly denied doing so.

10:06 PM

One lesson from this campaign is the extent to which partisanship is driving voter preferences. At this point, it’s clear that a lot of people have chosen a team, and once they do, they’re likely to process new revelations about their candidate through the lens of their predetermined beliefs.

10:06 PM

10:05 PM

I’d love to see polling on how credible voters find Trump’s various accusations — some true, some mostly false, some conspiratorial — about Clinton. Clinton’s “honest and trustworthy” numbers are awful, but Trump’s have become just as bad over the past few weeks, which means he may not be the most reliable messenger.

10:04 PM

As I wrote the other day, there are different ways for candidates to address accusations of sexual assault. There’s what Arnold Schwarzenegger did in 2003, when he apologized. And there’s what Trump is continuing to do, which is disparaging the accusers and claiming that the accusations have been “largely” debunked.

10:04 PM

This is a very good point. The last cascade of accusers arrived two days after Trump denied groping women in the second debate.

10:02 PM

I was curious to see what science says about presidential fitness and gender, and I found a 1990 meta-analysis of differences in leadership styles between men and women. In that study, the strongest evidence and biggest differences between men’s and women’s leadership was a tendency for women to adopt a more democratic or participative style and for men to adopt a more autocratic or directive style.

10:02 PM

10:01 PM

Trump keeps going back to Clinton’s email scandal. Why? Most Americans (57 percent) disapprove “of the way Hillary Clinton is handling questions about her use of personal email while she was secretary of state,” according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. The problem is that Trump has overshadowed this issue with his own problems.

10:00 PM

On the elections podcast, we’ve discussed how Trump has, more and more, echoed and amplified the stories that appear on Breitbart News and other far-right websites. But one thing I’ve noticed is that he brings those stories up — as he just did with the latest James O’Keefe “sting” — without providing basic context. Basically, he’s assuming there’s a base of knowledge that just may not exist for the average viewer — in particular the kinds of voters who he’ll need to move in order to make up ground.

10:00 PM

Trump says the sexual-assault accusations against him have been “largely debunked.” It’s not clear what he’s referring to: He didn’t go into specifics. Perhaps the closest the campaign has come to offering specific rebuttals to an accusation is bringing forward a British man who said that more than 30 years ago, when he was a teenager, he was on the same domestic U.S. flight as Trump during which a woman accused Trump of assaulting her, and didn’t see it happen.

9:59 PM
Attacks in the third debate
9:57 PM

9:57 PM

Wow, what a pivot for Trump on the sexual allegations — he went into allegations that Clinton and Obama paid people to start fights at his rallies. He didn’t even use his standard talking point about Bill Clinton’s sordid past. A missed opportunity, from the perspective of the Trump campaign.

9:57 PM

I’m here at the student center at UNLV where a standing-room-only crowd of students, professors and locals lucky enough to get a (free but scarce) ticket are on-site. Unlike in the debate hall, cheering is encouraged here. Most of the cheers are going to Clinton when she attacks Trump, but a sizable minority are shouting their approval when Trump strikes at Clinton.

9:55 PM

It probably can’t be said enough that Trump repeatedly condoned violence toward protesters at his rallies.

9:55 PM

Most Americans think Trump is lying when he says he didn’t sexually assault the women who’ve accused him. In a new Quinnipiac poll, 51 percent think the women charging trump with sexual assault are telling the truth.

9:53 PM
Interruptions at the 3rd debate
9:53 PM

Trump really was hosting “Celebrity Apprentice” the night Osama bin Laden was killed — and Trump’s show was interrupted to announce the news on NBC.

9:52 PM

Trump keeps going after Clinton on NAFTA. Although 36 percent of Americans agreed with Trump that NAFTA has had a negative economic impact on the nation’s economy in a May YouGov poll, the vast majority say it hasn’t had an impact, aren’t sure what impact it has had, or has had a good impact. Again, this is another issue on which Trump may be talking to his base, but this is just not an issue that is likely to move a lot of voters into his camp.

9:51 PM

Trump suggests the U.S. doesn’t make anything anymore. That isn’t true. Employment in the manufacturing sector is way down in recent decades, but actual production is at or near record highs.

9:51 PM

I’ve got some thoughts on the exchange about taxes, debt and deficit. The challenge Clinton points to there is structural (in a pretty obvious way): It’s hard to reconcile tax cuts with controlling deficits, unless you drastically cut spending. What’s interesting about what Trump is saying is that it is entirely focused on execution and governance — what he will do and what the results will be. He’s not emphasizing cutting spending — privatizing public programs like Social Security, which was a Republican proposal a decade or so ago — nor is he laying out a philosophical argument about smaller government, individual rights or the power of the market. This is a huge shift for a Republican presidential candidate.

9:51 PM

The focus of the trade discussion should be on China, not on NAFTA. Our goods trade deficit with China is far larger.

9:51 PM

Trump mentioned his recent meeting with Indian officials. He’s getting little support from Indian-Americans overall, as is the case with other Asian-Americans, including Vietnamese-American voters. But Trump has big fans among Hindu nationalists in both India and the U.S.

9:50 PM

An interesting tick of Trump’s debate speaking is the openness with which he talks about bad things happening to America that might be good for his chances of winning: “A terrible jobs report. In fact, I said is that the last jobs report before the election? Because if it is, I should win easily.”

It’s not like other presidential candidates — candidates on all sides — don’t do this, but 2016 is striking for the more craven side of political strategy being laid so publicly bare.

9:49 PM

We haven’t heard much about the economy from Trump this campaign even though it’s potentially one of his most effective issues — and was fairly effective in that last exchange, in my view. Historically, economic conditions have a strong correlation with election outcomes, with a stronger economy helping the incumbent. So the fact that the economy is average right now would theoretically predict a close race between the Democrat and the Republican.

9:49 PM

After the first debate, I wrote that Trump and Clinton seemed to be talking about two different countries. That’s especially true on the economy. Trump makes it sound like the U.S. is mired in a depression. Clinton acknowledges some challenges, but says the economy has rebounded under Obama.

Clinton’s depiction is probably closer to the truth. By pretty much any measure, the economy has improved dramatically since Obama took office. The unemployment rate is down to 5 percent, job growth has been steady and incomes, at last, are rising. (How much credit Obama deserves for that rebound is more debatable.)

Still, Trump isn’t wrong when he says that many Americans are still struggling. The poverty rate is still far above its pre-recession level, overall economic growth is anemic, and many parts of the country have seen little recovery.

9:49 PM

Clinton said climate change is a serious problem. A majority of Americans agree.

2014 2015 2016
Not at all 24% 24% 19%
Only a little 19 21 17
A fair amount 22 23 27
A great deal 34 32 37
“How much do you personally worry about climate change?”

Source: Gallup

A recent Gallup poll of 1,019 adults across 50 states and the District of Columbia found that concern about global warming has increased over the past few years. When asked how concerned they were about a list of environmental problems, 64 percent of respondents reported feeling a “great deal” or “fair amount” of worry about global warming, up 9 percentage points from last year.

9:48 PM

Moderator Chris Wallace says economic growth has been slow since the recession. (Trump quickly seized on the question, saying the economy is “stagnant.”) That’s true, but it isn’t just a problem in the U.S. Pretty much the whole rich world has experienced slow growth, not just in recent years but also dating back to before the recession.

9:47 PM

Clinton says Obama has cut the deficit by two-thirds. That’s true, but it’s a bit misleading. The deficit ballooned when Obama first took office due to a combination of the stimulus package and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The deficits shrank after that, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, they are now poised to grow again.

9:46 PM

Four years ago, Trump would have been in better shape if the topic had been the economy. That’s because the importance of the economy as an issue has fallen dramatically. Back in 2012, around 70 percent of Americans said the economy was the most important problem facing the country. That means Trump’s advantage on the issue isn’t worth what you might think based upon four years ago.

9:46 PM

Betting markets are completely unmoved so far, showing almost same odds they did half an hour before the debate (Trump’s at 17.1 percent to win the election now, as compared with 17.4 percent before). Does that mean it’s a draw so far? I don’t know. Trump’s been better on the substance than he was in the first two debates. But he’s also been on the verge of losing his temper on a couple of occasions. And Clinton’s probably had her most consistent performance so far.

9:45 PM

That exchange Trump and Clinton had earlier in the debate about abortion and the Supreme Court was important:

Earlier today, I spoke with a group of Christian conservatives who came to wave signs in support of Trump. All of them cited the Supreme Court as the main reason they’re backing Trump. Peggy Brown, 60, of California, for example, worried that up to eight positions on the Supreme Court could be filled over the next two presidential terms. Brown said she was motivated by the Franklin Graham Decision America tour, encouraging conservative Christians to run for school board and local offices as well as to vote in the presidential race.

A report released today by PRRI/Brookings found that 69 percent of likely voters who are white evangelical Protestants support Trump, compared to 49 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 44 percent of likely Catholic voters. Brown and the other Trump supporters I spoke with her in group said that Trump’s comments on women didn’t sway their choice.

9:43 PM

Trump is clearly a critic of trade. But it’s puzzling that he focuses his ire on NAFTA. NAFTA’s effect on U.S. employment (especially manufacturing) and wages is a pittance compared to that of China.

9:43 PM

Historically, the debt has been seen as an issue that Republicans worry more about than Democrats. But this year’s campaign turns the conventional wisdom on its head. Trump’s tax plan, by pretty much every analysis, would add trillions of dollars to the debt over the next decade. (Trump denies this, but his math doesn’t add up.) Clinton’s tax plan, by contrast, would boost government revenue; she would spend most or all of that extra revenue on various policy priorities, leaving her plans roughly deficit-neutral.

9:43 PM

If you’re starting to think that one candidate or the other is doing particularly well or poorly this evening, just remember that the moments that defined the last two debates happened in the second half. The candidates’ performances have tended to bifurcate around the 40-minute mark.

9:42 PM

A few more details on the candidates’ tax plans (a rare area where both Trump and Clinton have detailed proposals): Clinton’s plan would leave taxes for low- and middle-income families relatively unchanged. Trump’s would cut taxes for low earners, many more of whom would pay no federal income tax at all. But some middle-class households, particularly single parents and families with a large number of children, would see their taxes go up.

9:42 PM

Enthusiasm anecdote: There are about 80 students crammed into a room designed for 40 at the debate watch party at the University of Denver. OK, maybe it was the free food that brought them out, but there seems to be quite a bit of interest in this debate.

9:41 PM

Clinton said the country should work with its allies: The U.S. “has kept the peace through our alliances. Donald wants to tear up our alliances. I think it makes the world safer and, frankly, it makes the United States safer.”

That line appeals much more to Democrats than to Republicans, who tend to place a higher priority on U.S. military superiority.

9:41 PM

The economy is probably the best topic for Trump. In the most recent Fox News poll, Trump trailed on every single issue except the economy. If Trump cannot do well in this segment of the debate, then he is in danger of losing on the one issue on which Americans trust him more than Clinton.

9:40 PM

Clinton has recently proposed doubling the child tax credit to $2,000 per family. More importantly, she wants to make the child tax credit refundable — meaning those that earn too little to pay taxes would still get the benefit. That could be an effective way to combat poverty.

9:40 PM

9:40 PM

Economists disagree about the best way to estimate how much candidates’ tax plans will cost. But pretty much everyone agrees that Trump’s plan would reduce government revenue by trillions of dollars over the next decade. Trump denies that, saying that he will cut spending and claiming that his plan would boost economic growth, cutting into its cost. But his math doesn’t add up.

9:39 PM

Clinton says her tax plan would raise taxes on the rich while Trump’s would cut them. That’s true. According to new analyses by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, Clinton’s plan would raise taxes by $1.4 trillion over the next decade, with essentially all of that falling on the richest 1 percent of Americans. Under Trump’s plan, meanwhile, the richest 0.1 percent of earners would pay more than $1 million less per year on average.

9:38 PM

As the discussion shifts to the economy, it’s worth remembering that despite their many promises, presidents have relatively little control over the economy, at least outside of crises. To the extent they do have an impact, it is usually over the longer-term, via decisions on education, infrastructure and taxation. In other words, presidents’ true economic legacies usually become clear only after they leave office.

9:38 PM

9:38 PM

Trump goes after the Obama administration on “start up,” which is presumably a reference to the “New START” nuclear deal reached early in Obama’s term (while Clinton was secretary of state). As my colleague Walt Hickey wrote in our briefing book, New START lowered the number of active nuclear weapons the U.S. and Russia can hold. But there hasn’t been an actual reduction in weapons by Russia since the treaty. And in any case, reducing proliferation probably matters more than reducing the number of weapons held by existing nuclear powers.

9:37 PM

We’re not on the “fitness for office” section of the debate yet, but Clinton’s already bringing it up here with her bit about Trump’s fitness to be trusted with nuclear weapons — to be fair, this whole debate might very well be shaping up to be about Trump’s fitness for office.

9:36 PM

Trump says U.S. allies should start paying for American military support. But as my colleague Walt Hickey wrote in our briefing book, our allies do pay — via arms deals and, especially, by letting the U.S. use their territory to house military bases.

9:35 PM

Clinton said repeatedly that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the hacking of American emails goes to the highest levels of the Russian government. Why does the U.S. even have at least 17 intelligence agencies? A Washington Post investigation in 2010 revealed some of the sprawling and expensive infrastructure that has grown since the 9/11 attacks.

9:35 PM

Regardless of who is or is not a puppet, the Cubs just scored their first run in 21 innings. So there’s that.

9:34 PM

Voices of Nevada Voters: Robin Bernhard, CEO of an online training company

Las Vegas resident Robin Bernhard runs a technology company that specializes in designing online training modules. Bernhard, a member of the Nevada Democratic Party’s Central Committee, also recently returned from volunteering for The Syria Fund in the war-torn country. “You look at how quickly people can turn against each other,” he said over coffee at a Starbucks in a casino. “The America I want to see doesn’t come from a position of fear. It’s about problem-solving, not shutting the door behind you.”

Bernhard had to deal directly with questions of race, opportunity and growth as an elected member of the town council in Gardnerville, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe. In his former community, a few residents wanted only “white cowboys driving a pickup truck” as their neighbors and proposed a zero-growth measure to stem the flow of diverse newcomers from California and elsewhere. Bernhard said he demonstrated that the area would become a “ghost town in 50 years” if the measure were to pass and that it was ultimately defeated.

Despite being recently elected to the state’s Democratic Central Committee, Bernhard said that he doesn’t follow “a person or a party 100 percent” and that “anyone who does is a zealot.” Most of the rank-and-file technology workers he knows are Democratic-leaning, but he said the ranks of upper management are ideologically mixed. To the Trump supporters he knows, he said, “I understand wanting to see new approaches, new blood.” But Trump is not the change we need, he said. “We’re going to be dealing with this for years,” he said of the acrimony and xenophobia in the election.

9:34 PM

I don’t think Americans really care whether or not Vladimir Putin respects Clinton. Only 10 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of him. The more Trump is seen as not berating Putin, the worse it is for him.

9:33 PM

Clinton turns the Wallace question about quotes from her Wall Street speech talking of her desire for a “hemispheric common market” into a tangent about the Wikileaks and the Russian government’s hacks. Trump rightfully called out her pivot, but then frankly, missed his opportunity to hit her hard on that trade substantive line — he immediately looped back to talking about Putin. There’s one substantive policy point missed in this debate.

9:33 PM

Trump said no one talks about Obama’s deportations. There have been plenty of headlines about the record number of immigrants deported under Obama.

9:32 PM

This immigration debate played out in a fascinating way, with both candidates trying to seize the other’s strongest positions. Clinton accused Trump of using undocumented immigrant labor, while Trump went after Obama for deporting millions of immigrants.

9:32 PM

I feel like I’m getting a Trump montage here — “bigly,” “Hillary Clinton never gets anything done,” Mexico and the wall. I just need some Green Day playing in the background to make this a great sendoff to the 2016 election season.

9:32 PM

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9:32 PM

Trump loves to talk about immigration, and his supporters love it too. In an August 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 66 percent of Trump supporters said immigration is a very big problem. That compares to just 17 percent of Clinton supporters. Americans (at 37 percent) as a whole are somewhat closer to Clinton’s position. That, of course, is not close to a majority. That means talking about immigration as a big problem may allow Trump to speak to his base, but he really isn’t talking to the middle.

9:31 PM
Immigrants And Wages

Clinton tries to turn Trump’s issue against him by saying that Trump’s alleged past use of undocumented workers has driven down the wages of American workers. That’s a hotly debated topic in economics right now.

Pretty much everyone agrees on one part of this: Immigration is good for the economy as a whole. Immigrants work at higher rates than native-born Americans, they start companies at a higher rate, and they make the economy as a whole more productive. A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that immigrants don’t take jobs from native-born workers or drive down their wages overall.

But there’s more debate over how undocumented immigrants affect the wages of less-educated American workers. A famous study from David Card found that the Mariel boatlift — the sudden influx of Cuban refugees into south Florida in 1980 — didn’t affect wages much. But Harvard economist George Borjas recently re-evaluated the evidence and found a bigger effect. There have been several more papers on both sides of the issue since then.

9:31 PM

Clinton is right about our energy trade with our neighbors. More than a third of our oil came from Canada, which accounts for more of our imports than all the OPEC countries combined.

9:30 PM

Did Clinton really want a wall between Mexico and the U.S., as Trump said tonight and has said before on the campaign trail? Not exactly. Ten years ago, she voted for a bill that authorized fencing along about 700 miles of the border — not nearly as extensive as what Trump has called for.

9:29 PM

Having a more policy-focused debate puts both candidates at different kinds of disadvantages. Trump has a lot less policy experience, obviously. But despite this, the focus on issues allows him to emphasize the change message and puts Clinton in the position of having to defend the status quo. This isn’t the worst thing — certainly not as bad as being the status quo candidate in, say, 2008 — but it’s generally a harder position from which to debate.

9:29 PM

Trump isn’t wrong. Obama has deported about 2 million people in his eight years in office, more than George W. Bush.

9:28 PM

Clinton is obviously trying to rile Trump by saying that he “choked” in his meeting with the Mexican president. Trump ran off the rails in the first debate at around this same point — 20 minutes in — after Clinton started questioning his business acumen.

9:27 PM

Not to get all Kennedy/Nixon how-does-this-play-in-moving-pictures on everyone, but I have to say as far as screen presence goes, Trump looks a little … off tonight. Might be our hi-def TV, but he looks a little hot and bothered — literally a bit sweaty. It’s superficial, sure, but visuals matter in these things.

9:26 PM

9:26 PM

“Right now, we’re getting the drugs, they’re getting the cash,” Trump said about Mexico. In some cases, it’s more accurate to say we’re getting the drugs and we’re sending them the guns. As the Washington Post wrote, “More than 70,000 guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico between 2009 and 2014 could be traced back to the United States, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.” Trump referred to drug dealers as “bad hombres.”

9:25 PM

Americans actually really like the idea of a pathway to citizenship. According to a Gallup poll, 84 percent want to offer undocumented immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally the chance to become citizens. According to that same poll, 76 percent of Republicans favor a path to citizenship, more than the 62 percent who favor building a wall.

9:25 PM

Trump finally mentions his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border. It’s his signature issue, one that remarkably hadn’t come up in either of the previous two debates. But although the wall is popular with Trump’s supporters (less so among the population as a whole), it isn’t clear that it would do much to reduce illegal immigration. As Christianna Silva and I wrote in an item in our briefing book, the number of people crossing the Mexican border illegally has fallen sharply since the mid-2000s. According to the Pew Research Center, net migration from Mexico has been negative since the recession, meaning that more people have left the U.S. than have entered it. And in any case, as many as half of undocumented immigrants entered the country legally and overstayed their visas.

9:24 PM

If you’re a Supreme Court watcher, the candidates’ discussion just now may have left you wanting. The next president will have nearly unprecedented leverage over the shape the court will take for decades to come. So if you’d like a deeper look into the court’s future, I’d recommend Jeffrey Toobin’s excellent piece in The New Yorker or our quantitative preview of what might happen to the Supreme Court under a President Clinton or a President Trump.

9:24 PM

Trump keeps repeating that ICE endorsed him. He’s wrong. ICE is a federal agency — Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It doesn’t endorse candidates. The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, a union representing 5,000 immigration officers, has endorsed Trump.

9:23 PM

Trump returns to a frequent theme of his on the campaign trail: crimes committed by immigrants. But there is simply no evidence that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, commit violent crimes at a higher rate than native-born Americans. If anything, they commit fewer.

9:23 PM

Trump and Clinton arguing about abortion is one of the most traditional Republican versus Democrat arguments they’ve had this whole series of debates. My student watch-party at the University of Denver is eating it up.

9:23 PM

Finally, immigration! This is one of Trump’s signature issues (maybe the singular issue), but it went virtually unmentioned at the first two debates. Of course, as I wrote more than a year ago now, Trump’s statements on immigration are frequently misleading and sometimes outright false. We’ll see if he sticks to the facts any better tonight.

9:23 PM

Part of this is the very focused question on Supreme Court issues, but Clinton seems to be prioritizing laying out her own vision in this debate much more than she did in the last two. She hasn’t really pivoted her answers into critiques of Trump.

9:23 PM

Guess what voter group Clinton was talking to during that stretch about abortion? “Indeed, he said women should be punished, there should be some form of punishment for women who obtain abortions and I could not be more opposed to that position.”

College educated women, in all likelihood, a crucial demographic this year — all women are this year, actually. Trump’s rhetoric about punishing women has not played well with Americans, even if they do not support abortion rights. It’s a bad line for him to have taken earlier in the campaign.

9:23 PM

Trump (and others) frequently frame the issue of native-born Americans losing jobs to recent immigrants in terms of blue-collar factory work. But there’s a growing discontent about immigration — or, anyway, temporary foreign workers — among information technology workers and computer scientists. H1-B visas — a program that ties skilled temporary workers from overseas to specific companies for specific jobs — is a favorite program of companies like Microsoft, which has lobbied the government to increase the number of these visas available on the argument that there aren’t enough Americans with the necessary computing skills. But Hal Salzman, professor of public policy at Rutgers, (among others) has argued that this is fundamentally incorrect. Instead, Salzman says, companies have overhyped shortages so that they can import workers who are cheaper, can’t quit for a higher-paying job, and don’t have as many benefits or rights

9:22 PM

Back in February, I wrote about President Obama’s odds of getting a liberal Supreme Court nominee through the Senate. It’s tough. Ideology has become a lot more important to whether senators confirm a nominee or not, while qualifications have become a lot less important. That means that someone whose ideology and qualifications were equivalent to those of liberal stalwart Justice Thurgood Marshall would have a very hard time getting a majority of votes in the current Senate, according to the model I created to try to explain the votes for and against Supreme Court. Meanwhile, it’s possible that nominees whose ideology and qualifications were equivalent to those of Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor could be filibustered.

9:22 PM

I’m not sure I’d agree that Trump is hitting his marks. Several of his answers, like that one right now about babies being torn from the womb, have been pretty strange. And no, a tie isn’t good enough — he needs a win.

9:21 PM

Both candidates seem to be hitting their marks so far — Trump aiming for his base and Clinton for hers — but is a tie good enough for Trump, Nate? Is a single or double OK, or does he need a home-run?

9:21 PM

Clinton was critical of the Citizens United decision, as Democrats routinely are, but in fact Democrats are catching up in the race for big, unlimited dollars permitted by the decision. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 40 percent of the $558 million raised from the top 100 donors in this election cycle has come from Democrats and is being spent on liberal causes. That’s an increase from 2012, when 30 percent came from Democrats.

9:20 PM

In the last debate, Trump’s comments that he would prosecute Clinton and that she would be in jail in a Trump administration suggested a loose understanding of the judiciary’s independence. His comment now that his appointment of pro-life justices would pretty much guarantee the overturning of Roe v. Wade corroborates that impression of how Trump would regard the judicial system.

9:19 PM
Trump’s Smart Play On The Second Amendment

Trump’s somewhat jumbled opening foray about the Supreme Court did have one discernible underlying current — he’s a big defender of the Second Amendment, and he said that if Clinton were elected it would become a “very, very small replica of what it is right now.” Trump is smart to play up the protection of Second Amendment rights, since many of his base voters see them as crucial. When I went to Maine’s second congressional district, where Trump might very well pick up an electoral vote, lots of Trump supporters I talked to were motivated to get to the polls not just because of the presidential candidate, but because of his links to organizations that aim to protect hunting rights.

9:18 PM

The only Supreme Court issue, other than praising Justice Scalia and excoriating Justice Ginsburg for making “inappropriate” comments, that Trump is directly engaging with is the Second Amendment — and the Supreme Court discussion has quickly become a gun rights discussion. The Supreme Court first granted an individual’s right to possess a gun in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller.

9:18 PM

The Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision that Wallace asked the candidates about is so important because it established that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to bear arms against local legal restrictions. The author of the majority opinion in the case was Antonin Scalia, who died earlier this year; the Senate hasn’t voted on whether to confirm Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia. Clinton opposes the decision, which gives a window into what a Clinton White House’s nominees to the Supreme Court might be inclined to rule.

9:17 PM

Clinton was channeling Theodore Roosevelt a bit with her opening remark about her constitutional philosophy: “The Constitution was made for the people and not the people for the Constitution.” The context for this was stepping outside the usual confines of executive power to intervene in a major labor dispute.

9:16 PM

It’s worth noting that, while accidental gun deaths like the ones Clinton is talking about are not well tracked, we do know that the number of them has fallen. In fact, it’s half what it was in the early 1980s.

9:16 PM

Some brave scientists spent a year analyzing Second Amendment rhetoric on Twitter. You can read their research here.

9:16 PM

Clinton said she supports the Second Amendment but also wants “reasonable regulation.” One specific proposal she mentions: universal background checks. Research in Missouri and Connecticut has found that a particularly strict kind of background check — so-called permit-to-purchase laws — do help reduce gun homicides and even gun suicides. The impact of other restrictions supported by Clinton, such as a ban on some types of assault weapons, is less clear.

9:15 PM

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Clinton is speaking in plainer, less complex language tonight than she usually does in these debates. And that may be a smart move, given that people who remain undecided at this point may not be deeply informed voters.

9:13 PM

Nate’s post about the timing of the third debate reminds me that we’re only about halfway between the first debate (23 days ago) and the election (20 days from now). I’m not really sure what that means, other than the fact that the first debate feels like forever ago, so we likely have many twists and turns to go.

9:13 PM

9:13 PM

Clinton just said the Senate should vote on the Merrick Garland nomination to the Supreme Court. That’s not the viewpoint of a majority of Americans. Only 48 percent in a May CBS News poll agreed with her. It seems more Americans than not are willing to wait for the next president (most likely Clinton) for a Senate nomination hearing. That’s not necessarily bad news for Clinton, but it gives you an idea how much is on the line in eyes of Americans when it comes to this election.

9:13 PM

While we have limited polling on the Supreme Court and the presidential election, most voters seem to trust Clinton when it comes to choosing justices. In a late July Fox News poll, 51 percent of Americans thought Clinton would be better at nominating the next justice, compared to only 43 percent for Trump. That’s not a wide margin, but it’s enough to mean that Trump likely won’t gain ground on Clinton with his answers on this topic.

9:12 PM

Clinton said 33,000 Americans a year die by guns. See our recent project breaking down those deaths and how to prevent them.

9:11 PM

Using a question about originalism to lecture the Senate about its duty to vote on the president’s Supreme Court nominees was a strong choice by Clinton.

9:10 PM

The most likely number of Supreme Court appointments the next president will make in a first term is two — including the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia. There is a 40.7 percent chance of that. There is a 32.6 percent chance that there will be no other vacancies besides Scalia’s and a 20.5 percent chance that there will be two other vacancies, for a total of three. We simulated the court’s future here.

9:10 PM

Why is UNLV hosting tonight’s debate? In part because the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority agreed a year ago to make $4 million available for the event — about half is the host fee and half is for expenses. Host universities, or their home cities, generally have to spend millions for the privilege of holding a debate on their turf.

9:05 PM

Voices of Nevada Voters: Bill Cockshoot, 49, real-estate sales director and investor

“It’s a lot cleaner,” Bill Cockshoot said of Nevada politics. He was comparing the situation to that in Illinois, where he traded financial futures before moving to Henderson, Nevada, four years ago with his wife and son. “I had a lot of reasons for leaving Illinois,” he said, pointing to lower property prices and taxes in his new home state. “But one of them was the Democrat Party has run down the state,” he said.

Cockshoot — who over the years has voted for both Republicans and Democrats, including George H.W. Bush, his son George W. and Bill Clinton — generally considers himself GOP-leaning these days. But he’s planning to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson and is going to vote for marijuana legalization, which is on the Nevada ballot. Cockshoot said his primary reason for choosing Johnson is that he’s “disgusted” with Trump.

9:02 PM

9:02 PM


Debates in the short term are about performance — how an individual plays his or her part. Were they quick on their feet? Graceful? Gracious? A complete asshole? In that sense, honesty doesn’t matter so much on the stage. But if you fib too big, you give your opponent a chance to catch you out and make you look bad. In the long term, it’s best not to tell too many lies, especially in the age of social media, when they can be spliced into videos for days and days after — à la, Mike Pence. So, in conclusion, probably best to hew closer to the most attractive version of the truth you can muster if you’re a politician.

8:59 PM
Who’ll Watch Tonight?

The last debate drew 67 million viewers, down from 84 million for the first presidential debate. The audiences for both debates were very similar demographically — to each other and to the single, and less-viewed, vice presidential debate: Between 51 percent and 54 percent of viewers of each debate so far were women, viewers’ median age was between 53 and 59 (older viewers were much more into the veep debate than younger ones were), and between 72 percent and 76 percent of viewers were white and not Hispanic. (All data is from Nielsen via our colleagues at ESPN Research.)

These figures don’t fully account for the potential impact of previous debates — and who might watch tonight’s. Millions of other people likely will stream the debates online, and many others will absorb some of what happened without watching live, through social media, video clips that are cut into ads and “Saturday Night Live” parodies.

8:57 PM

Today’s debate is being held 20 days before the election — which is a fairly typical timetable for the final presidential debate. In past years, the final debate (not necessarily the third one, because there haven’t always been three debates) was held an average of 17 days before Election Day. The big exception was in 1980, when the final debate — and the first one Jimmy Carter participated in — was held just 7 days before the election, yielding a big swing toward Ronald Reagan that turned his modest lead in the polls into a landslide.

1960 10/21/60 11/8/60 18
1976 10/22/76 11/2/76 11
1980 10/28/80 11/4/80 7
1984 10/21/84 11/6/84 16
1988 10/13/88 11/8/88 26
1992 10/19/92 11/3/92 15
1996 10/16/96 11/5/96 20
2000 10/17/00 11/7/00 21
2004 10/13/04 11/2/04 20
2008 10/15/08 11/4/08 20
2012 10/22/12 11/6/12 15
2016 10/19/16 11/8/16 20
The last debate is usually about 15-20 days before the election
8:53 PM

Voices of Nevada Voters: Sharon Abila, 62, retired


Sharon Abila, 62, recently moved to Las Vegas from Alhambra, California. She waved a Trump sign on a corner near the Hard Rock Cafe on the route to the debate at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, to enthusiastic honks from many passers-by. “I support Trump for my grandchildren, great-grandchildren,” Abila said. “Right now, we have a freedom we’re about to lose.”

Like others in a large group waving signs, Abila was wearing a T-shirt with Christian slogans. “There’s been a lot of policy that’s against my faith,” she said. But she added: “You don’t have to be a faith to know we are headed in the wrong direction fast.” On the question of Trump’s comments about women, she said: “One of the things we should practice is forgiveness. Of course, I don’t agree with a lot of the things he verbally comes out and says … but I think his heart is really to bring this country back from the direction it’s going. And he has voiced a lot of what people are feeling. The fear. The opening up of borders. The media likes to soften the blow of what is happening in this country and not call it terrorism. I believe if Hillary is elected, we’re going to see a lot of it.”

Abila, who is of Latino and Native-American heritage, said she has been criticized for her views by some of her closest friends. “At one time I was on the other side,” she said. “But I thank God that I have changed. I have more compassion. It’s not about me.”

8:51 PM

8:49 PM

Trump and Clinton are some of the oldest presidential candidates we’ve had. At age 70, Trump would be the oldest person elected for a first term as president. Clinton will tie current record-holder Ronald Reagan if she wins; she will be 69 (her birthday is in late October).

A woman of Clinton’s age can expect to live, on average, an additional 17.8 years (2.4 years longer than a man of the same age), while a man of 70, like Trump, can expect to live an average of 14.1 more years. From a health standpoint though, losing might be in the candidates’ best interest. An observational study published in the medical journal BMJ in 2015 found that elected heads of state experience “accelerated aging and premature mortality.”

8:46 PM
Odd-Numbered Sequels Aren’t Always the Best

Third debates have a history of not doing a whole lot to change the race. The first debate sets up the dynamic between the candidates, revealing their strengths and weaknesses and often ending with a clear winner. The second debate provides an opportunity for the candidate who lost the first one to work on his or her weak spots and create a more even matchup. (Think George W. Bush coming back against John Kerry in 2004 to prove he actually did know something about foreign policy, or Barack Obama in 2012 demonstrating he could be sharper and more aggressive against Mitt Romney than he was in their first matchup.)

The third debate is more like “Rocky III” or “The Dark Knight Rises” — it can be a good contest, but everyone watching pretty much knows the formula at this point. Basically, it usually ends up cementing the narratives that have already developed. John McCain’s third debate performance against Obama was fine but didn’t change voters’ or critics’ view of the substantial obstacles in McCain’s path. Kerry was credited with winning his third debate with Bush, but that only reminded voters that Kerry is a better debater, it didn’t necessarily convince them that he should be president.

Even Trump seems to have run out of ways to shock people or try to unnerve Clinton. Inviting President Obama’s half-brother hardly seems like a game-changer, and the Republican nominee’s late conversion to term limits seems unlikely to throw off his opponent for a term-limited office. He may have also finally figured out that any strategy that relies on getting Clinton to lose her cool is probably destined to fail.

So it seems safe to expect the same old, same old tonight. Oh, sure, the candidates might attempt something new, but we’re unlikely to see anything that truly upsets the dynamic of this contest.

8:43 PM
Debating The Supreme Court

None of the moderators in this year’s previous debates have asked the two presidential candidates about the Supreme Court. An audience member — Beth Miller — did get a chance to ask Trump and Clinton about the court at the town hall debate earlier this month in St. Louis. Their answers in that debate may give us an idea of what to expect tonight, when the shorthanded court is slated to be one of the major topics.

Clinton said she wanted a court that would reverse Citizens United, strengthen voting-rights protections, uphold Roe v. Wade, “stick with marriage equality,” and not always side with “corporate interests.”

Trump said he wanted justices in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia (“great judge”) who would respect the Second Amendment. He then quickly pivoted away from the topic and to the fact that he’d put “more than $100 million” of his own money into his campaign.

And, lest we forget, there is a Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, who has been twiddling his thumbs since Obama nominated him 217 days ago. While Clinton did not refer to Garland by name at the last debate, she did say that the Senate’s failure to give the nominee a vote “was a dereliction of duty.”

8:42 PM
The Politics Of Definition

One feature of polarized politics in general, and this election in particular, is that a great deal of debate happens around definitions. What we call things can matter in politics — from naming the estate tax the “death tax” to “socialized medicine.” But debate over definitions can also be a form of deflection. Since the release of the “Trump tape” a few weeks ago, this seems to have ramped up — with discussion about the definition of “locker room talk” and even what constitutes sexual assault. Debates are pretty much the perfect venue for the candidates to go back and forth about what something is or is not. It’s important to define things correctly, but when the candidates spend too much time going back and forth about these labels, it can prevent the discussion from going much deeper.

8:39 PM

Going into the first debate on Sept. 26, our polls-only forecast gave Trump a 45 percent chance of winning the presidency. Going into tonight, those chances are 13 percent. It’s hard to pin this shift solely on the debates, but it’s been a … busy few weeks.

8:37 PM
Clinton Has A Lot Of Upside In Texas

A Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won Texas since 1976, but we currently give Clinton a non-negligible 17 percent chance of taking that state. That prediction is based solely on polls, but last week, we took a more demographic approach to calculate where Clinton and Trump had the most upside. Texas stood out a bit:


In 2012, the state had a relatively large share of non-whites and college-educated whites who voted for Mitt Romney. Trump is underperforming Romney among these groups, so there are a lot of voters Clinton could gain. (On the flip side, there were relatively few non-college-educated whites in Texas that voted for Obama, so not much room for Trump to gain there.) We didn’t think the advantage would be enough to flip the state blue, but it’s certainly enough to make it a narrower race.

8:37 PM
What This Election Reveals About Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is almost sure to get a mention tonight. In the last debate, moderator Anderson Cooper pressed Trump about the candidate’s comments in a video from 2005 in which he bragged about being able to grope women. Trump denied having sexually assaulted anyone, which prompted several women to come forward with new allegations that he had touched them inappropriately. Dylan Stableford at Yahoo News has counted 10 women who’ve accused Trump of groping or touching them without consent. A Daily Beast timeline shows that allegations against Trump date back to the 1980s.

Why would someone who had been groped or assaulted take several decades to come forward? Because the hassle and personal cost of coming forward is often greater than the benefit of reporting the incident. (Fox News anchor Lou Dobbs participated in the doxxing of one of Trump’s accusers, for example.) As we discussed in a recent FiveThirtyEight chat, Trump’s comments in the 2005 video prompted a visceral response from a lot of women, including Michelle Obama.

8:36 PM

For the record, as of 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, Trump has a 17.4 percent chance to win the election according to the prediction market Betfair, while Clinton has an 81.6 percent chance. We’ll see if there’s a shift in those numbers over the course of the evening, as there was during the first presidential debate, or if bettors hold the debate to be a non-factor, as after the second one. Lately, the prediction markets have held steady for Trump even when he’s gotten bad news, which could be a sign of longshot bias.

8:33 PM

FiveThirtyEight sought out the voices of diverse Nevada voters to get a sense of how the debate and the election are playing on the ground. We’ll be sharing them with you throughout this live blog.

Voices of Nevada Voters: Trina Colon, 40, mortgage banker

“I have been in a unique position being in an interracial marriage,” said Trina Colon, who is white and whose husband is black and Mexican-American. She believes this election has incited voters who openly cite race as a reason for voting for Trump. “White people approach me saying they are concerned about the diluting of the white race. I can’t believe that I’m hearing these things.” In business settings, she exits the conversation. But in social settings, “I’m a little more vocal than that,” she said, “like ‘What the f— are you talking about?’”

The Las Vegas resident’s top issues are climate change — particularly its impact on water, something in short supply in the Nevada desert — and reproductive rights. “I do not believe that a woman’s uterus is a place for politics,” she said. As someone in mortgage banking, she said, she’s surprised by the level of support for Trump, whom she believes lacks a viable economic plan. During the Great Recession, Las Vegas’s housing prices collapsed, and tourists had less disposable income to support the service-driven economy.

8:31 PM


It’s possible that the IBD/TIPP poll, which shows Trump up by 1 percentage point, represents the true state of the race, but chances are it doesn’t. IBD/TIPP gets a good grade in our pollster ratings, but it’s just one poll. Moreover, IBD/TIPP has produced pro-Republican results in the past, though the poll has come into line with other polls by Election Day. We have other national polls released on Wednesday that show Clinton’s lead at 7, 9, 10 and 15 percentage points. As I explained on our podcast, a poll’s margin of error for the difference between the two candidates’ support is roughly double the reported margin of error for the poll, which refers to a single candidate’s percentage. That means, given the 782-person sample size on the IBD/TIPP poll, the 1 percentage point Trump lead could actually represent Clinton being up something like 6 points. Additionally, because we have so many polls, we should expect at least a few to produce results outside the margin of error, which only works 19 out of 20 times. The bottom line: IBD is an outlier until proven otherwise.

8:29 PM
Science And The Supremes

Abortion rights will likely take center stage when the issue of the Supreme Court comes up tonight, but the scientific literacy of potential judges matters deeply. For evidence of that, look no further than the 2013 ruling on DNA patents.

In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, the court held that naturally occurring DNA couldn’t be patented. But the ruling left open some pretty important loopholes and ambiguities. For instance, companies can still patent synthetic DNA. Specifically, the court allowed the patenting of complementary DNA — a type of synthetic DNA that is like natural DNA in almost every way, except that it’s condensed to excise parts of the genetic code that don’t create proteins. That means you can’t patent a gene, but you can patent something that is almost exactly like that gene, containing nothing but information coded by nature. What’s more, scientists I spoke to when I was reporting on this three years ago were particularly troubled by the fact that the justices didn’t seem to clearly understand these details or why they mattered. Justice Antonin Scalia — who died this year and whose seat is now vacant — admitted as much in an addendum to the opinion, writing: “I join the judgment of the Court, except [the portions] going into fine details of molecular biology. I am unable to affirm those details on my own knowledge or even my own belief.”

8:27 PM

“Debt and entitlements” will be one of tonight’s debate topics. Since the country is carrying more than $19 trillion in federal debt, the issue is a worthwhile one. But discussion about this topic has faded during this campaign, at least among Republicans. During the GOP debates through Jan. 14 of this year, mentions of “debt” or “deficit” came up far less often than they did during the 2012 cycle. That year, Mitt Romney frequently badgered President Obama over “trillion-dollar deficits,” but so far the issue has played a remarkably small role in the 2016 campaign.

8:26 PM

For the past week, the Trump campaign has been complaining that this election is rigged. And his complaints, however baseless, appear to be having an effect. About 41 percent of Americans and 73 percent of Republicans believe this election could be “stolen” from Trump, according to a Morning Consult poll. In some areas, however, distrustful voters will be able to double-check the vote count themselves. On Monday, a superior court judge in Pima County, Arizona, ordered the county to preserve all ballots and the scanned images of those ballots and to make those scans public. Pima followed the lead of other jurisdictions that have done the same, including St. Louis (absentee ballots were ruled to be public records) and the entire state of Colorado.

8:25 PM

The first two debates have been heavy on personal attacks and light on policy discussion. (Although there was more substance to them than the subsequent coverage might suggest.) I’m not about to predict that tonight will be any different, but the pre-announced topics, at least, are encouraging for those of us who care about policy details. Five of the six focus on specific policy areas: debt and entitlements; immigration; the economy; the Supreme Court; and “foreign hot spots.” Only the final topic, “fitness to be president,” is more focused on personality than policy.

8:24 PM
An Election Update, In Miniature

We never got around to doing a full-fledged Election Update today, but for the record: It was a bad day for Trump in the state polls and a weird day in the national polls. Two national polls showed the race tied — yes, those are the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times and Rasmussen Reports polls, which often show good numbers for Trump — and a third, from IBD/TIPP, actually showed Trump one point ahead. But other national polls showed Trump trailing by 9, 10, 10 and 15 percentage points.

On the state front, Trump got polls showing him down by double digits in New Hampshire and Wisconsin, losing Arizona by several points, and even losing to the independent Evan McMullin in Utah. He also got a poll putting him 3 points ahead in Georgia, which I suppose is what passes for good news these days.

The consensus of the data is consistent with Clinton holding a national lead in the mid-to-high single digits. Our model puts it at about 7 points, and gives Clinton an 87 percent chance of winning the Electoral College according to the polls-only version of our forecast, and an 85 percent chance according to polls-plus.

8:21 PM
Violence In Mideast Hot Spots Is Being Funded By The Area’s Own Cultural History

With “foreign hot spots” on the list of debate topics for tonight, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at where the Islamic State is getting some of its cash. The Fertile Crescent was the cradle of human civilization, and it now harbors some of the oldest human-made objects on Earth — ceramic vases, sculptures of gods and men, tablets stamped with cuneiform writing documenting business transactions that happened thousands of years ago. These objects are immensely valuable — both culturally and financially — and in Iraq and Syria, their sale on the private market is now a significant source of funding for ISIS.

You might have read stories about concerns that ISIS would loot museums in the cities it overran. But that’s only part of the problem. In an essay posted earlier this year at The Conversation, University of Chicago postdoctoral research fellow Fiona Rose-Greenland explained a complex system in which ISIS functions as a local government that approves digs and taxes the sale of antiquities discovered via a sort of looting that is more primary-source than headlines made it out to be. The result is a trade that is harder to stop than direct museum looting by ISIS itself would be, because it relies on existing professional looters and grey markets. For instance, earlier this week, an Italian newspaper called La Stampa published an undercover investigation that claimed Libyan antiquities were being fenced through the mafia and sold to collectors in China, Russia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

ISIS is typically said to collect a 20 percent tax on these sales, and nobody knows how much money the group has made this way — estimates range from as little as $4 million to as much as much as $7 billion. But Rose-Greenland is part of a team that is trying to get a better idea of what that number might be by using analysis that combines databases of known objects and archaeological dig sites, satellite images of looting digs in progress, and documentation that shows how much collectors are paying for similar artifacts in public markets.

8:19 PM
Trump Needs To Win Tonight

The pressure tonight is much more on Trump than Clinton. Trump comes into the debate down 7 percentage points in the FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast with less than three weeks to go. He’s losing, time is running out, and, as I wrote earlier today, third presidential debates haven’t moved the polls that much in the past.

1976 -3.0 -2.4 0.6
1992 -16.0 -9.9 6.1
2000 -2.1 -2.4 0.3
2004 +0.7 +0.8 0.1
2008 -8.4 -7.1 1.3
2012 +0.5 +1.0 0.6
Average 1.5
Third debates rarely shift the polls much

Data is rounded. There was no third debate in 1980, 1984, 1988 or 1996.

That’s why Trump’s best bet isn’t to try to make up his entire deficit tonight. Instead, if he can reach a much more modest landmark — cutting his deficit in half, for example — Trump would be near enough to Clinton that a large polling error in his favor would put him over the top.

1976 -2.4 -2.1 0.3
1992 -9.9 -5.6 4.3
2000 -2.4 +0.5 2.9
2004 +0.8 +2.5 1.7
2008 -7.1 -7.3 0.2
2012 +1.0 +3.9 2.8
Average 2.0
Polls after the third debate usually predict the election result

Data is rounded. There was no third debate in 1980, 1984, 1988 or 1996.

If, however, Trump is still trailing by 7 points a week from now, his campaign will be all but finished.

8:15 PM
The Mosquito Vote

The main focus of this election has been the presidential race, but so many other things will be on the ballot Nov. 8. In the Florida Keys, local voters will be asked whether they are in favor of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes somewhere on the islands as part of an experiment that ultimately aims to reduce the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika.

Many locals are opposed to the research and have several reasons for not wanting to be exposed to the risk of a new technology: Current methods for mosquito control are working relatively well, and it’s not clear whether the genetically modified mosquitoes will be able to reduce disease, especially in the short term. People in favor of the research point to the large quantity of insecticide currently being used to keep mosquitoes at bay and the growing problem of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes as some of the reasons that new technology is necessary. The vote brings up a lot of big questions about how a society should deal with risk, particularly when it comes to new technology and public health.

8:10 PM
Lessons From The Brexit

If Trump’s deficit in the polls comes up in the debate, don’t be surprised if he references the Brexit vote as evidence that he can still win. He’s brought up Brexit a couple of times lately. But what should American political observers take away from the Brexit vote? I put that question to University of Kent professor Matthew Goodwin, whose research found that undecided Brexit voters shared more traits with those Britons who wanted to leave the European Union than those who wanted to remain (hinting at the eventual outcome).

“Trump has called himself ‘Mr Brexit’ and pointed to the way in which some of the opinion polls in the U.K. failed to correctly identify the ‘Leave [the EU]’ victory,” Goodwin wrote in an email. “Most of the turnout models in the polls failed to account for the unexpectedly high turnout among more working-class, elderly and socially conservative voters. This is one reason why I do expect Trump’s core supporters to mobilize as we have ample evidence from Europe that nativist populism can be a powerful mobilizer.”

But Goodwin added that even if there is high turnout among Trump voters, the U.S. race is very different. “Unlike the U.S. race, there was no pronounced gender gap in the U.K. referendum vote, and while some prominent Brexiteers like Nigel Farage were divisive, they were nowhere as unpopular as Trump,” he wrote. “Moreover, from a polling perspective the difficulty came with making sense of an event that has only happened once before, in 1975, whereas current polls in the U.S. can be compared to those in 2012, 2008 and so forth, so we have more of a ‘safety net’ in terms of their reliability and insight.”

You can read more about the lessons that Goodwin thinks Americans should learn from Brexit here.

8:05 PM
Science Is Missing From The Debate (Again)

As a journalist who focuses on science, I’m disappointed to see that none of the debate topics touch very closely on science. Indeed, other than some detours into clean coal and Obamacare, the presidential debates have not focused much on what our new president will be thinking about science-related issues. But, turns out, it’s pretty easy to figure out what the candidates’ science policy priorities are.

A few weeks ago, my colleague Dhrumil Mehta and I got transcript data from all the C-SPAN videos since January 2015 in which Trump or Clinton were tagged as a speaker — that meant campaign speeches, roundtable events and primary debates. There were 133 files for Clinton and 121 for Trump. We searched all those files for keywords such as “advance,” “cutting-edge” and “science.” And patterns emerged. Trump demonstrated an interest in science as a tool to aid security and defense, including space exploration, military technology and energy independence. Clinton leaned more toward science as an engine of job-creation: Focusing on advanced manufacturing, STEM education programs and funding for research and development. To learn more about the candidates’ ideas — and what experts in those fields think about them — check out our roundtable chats on The Science of Trump and The Science of Clinton.

7:54 PM
Welcome To The Final Debate!

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s coverage of the third and final presidential debate. And to be frank, we’re really not sure what to expect. It would be tempting to say that Donald Trump has nothing to lose. But his freewheeling, undisciplined style produced losses to Hillary Clinton in both the first and second presidential debates, according to post-debate polls, shifting the horse race substantially toward Clinton. On the day of the first debate, Clinton had only a 1.5-point lead over Trump in our polls-only forecast and a 55 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. Today, her lead is 6.9 points and her Electoral College chances are up to 87 percent.

If it’s any preview of his tactics during the debate, Trump has invited a variety of guests, such as President Obama’s Kenyan-born half-brother Malik, that seem designed to troll Clinton and the news media. Perhaps it’s a head-fake and Trump will turn in a more somber and “presidential” performance, hoping to earn plaudits from pundits as a result. Be wary, however: While the pundit consensus about the previous debate was that Trump had fought Clinton to a draw, scientific polls taken after the debate showed that more voters thought Clinton won.

And historically, third debates haven’t been “game-changers,” producing lower TV ratings and less polling movement than earlier debates do. Still, tonight counts as Trump’s best and perhaps last chance to turn the race around.