Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton clash in debate showdown

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clashed heatedly over the economy, tax cuts for the wealthy and ISIS Monday in the fiery first exchanges of their crucial first presidential debate.

Clinton, the Democratic nominee, repeatedly sought to correct Trump’s statements as she aimed to portray him as out of touch with the complexities of the American economy. Trump, the Republican nominee, slammed Clinton for calling the vast Trans-Pacific Partnership deal the “gold standard” of such agreements.

“That’s called business, by the way,” Trump said

“I know you live in your own reality,” she said.

The showdown quickly lived up to its billing as the two rivals traded verbal punches, with an emphatic, passionate Trump blasting Clinton over the economy and painting her as a symbol of a failed political status quo.

Clinton said Trump “was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis.”

“That’s called business by the way,” Trump said.

Clinton and Trump began the debate by shaking hands before stationing themselves behind their podiums at Hofstra University on New York’s Long Island for the 90-minute clash, which could become a turning point in their ferocious battle for the White House. The debate is attracting worldwide interest with a television audience expected to approach 100 million, lured by the extraordinary drama of the 2016 campaign.

The debate opened with a discussion over the economy and how the candidates would create jobs.

“The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we want to build together. We have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” Clinton said.

“We also have to make the economy fairer,” Clinton said, calling for an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay for women, in an answer that was packed with policy details

Trump answered by saying that jobs were fleeing America to places like Mexico.

“We have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us, we have to stop our companies from leaving the United States.” Trump said “hundreds and hundreds” of US firms were shutting up shop and leaving the country. “We have to stop these countries stealing our companies and stealing our jobs.”

But the personal jabs began quickly.

Clinton said her rival’s plans for tax cuts would amount to “trumped up, trickle down” economics. And she jabbed Trump by saying that he had started his real estate business with $14 million from his family.

Trump hit back, saying that his father had offered him a “very small loan” to build his business.

“We have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us, we have to stop our companies from leaving the United States.” Trump said “hundreds and hundreds” of US firms were closing up shop and leaving the country. “We have to stop these countries stealing our companies and stealing our jobs.”

Campaign at a critical point

Trump and Clinton are facing off with the campaign at a critical point, as the race is a dead heat just 43 days before Election Day.

Under the relentless spotlight of the presidential debate stage, Trump faces his toughest examination yet of whether he has the knowledge and temperament to be president. Any gaffes or emotional eruptions by Trump could play into Clinton’s claim he would be a dangerous risk in the Oval Office.

Clinton, meanwhile, faces the vexing assignment of fact-checking Trump’s often outrageous statements while making an emotional connection with voters and building enthusiasm for her candidacy, especially among millennials.

She also is likely to face a barrage from Trump on her ethical vulnerabilities, including the controversies over her private email server and the Clinton Foundation.

The rivals spent the day preparing for their big battle.

Clinton participated in mock debates with her tart-tongued former aide Philippe Reines playing Trump. In one practice debate, Reines assumed the character of the unpredictable nominee by praising Clinton for her role as a pioneer for women, campaign sources said.

Reines even wore the kind of signature red tie that Trump favors and adopted his characteristic hand gestures in a bid to fully prepare Clinton for her unpredictable foe.

The Republican nominee has watched videos of Clinton, but his preparation has been less intense than his opponent’s, in keeping with his more freewheeling style. He did not hold mock debates, for instance, with someone standing in for Clinton.

Latest polling

Latest polling shows the stakes for the debate are monumental.

A CNN/ORC poll released Monday found Trump edging Clinton 42% to 41% in the crucial battleground state of Colorado among likely voters in a four-way race. In Pennsylvania, another key state, the poll found Clinton in a virtual tie against Trump among likely voters at 45% to 44%.

The former secretary of state is relying on both states to help pave her way to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Nationally, CNN’s Poll of Polls finds Clinton and Trump neck-and-neck 44%-42%.

The Clinton campaign is already raising concerns that due to his inexperience on the national stage and low expectations for his performance, Trump will be judged more favorably — whatever happens in the debate.

“We want these candidates to be judged fairly,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.” “Do they both have specific plans to make people’s lives better? Do they both have a real command of the issues?”

Trump, meanwhile, faces the challenge of bringing his unconventional style to one of the most-traditional venues of a presidential campaign. His outsider campaign represents a repudiation of US domestic and foreign policy, and if the debate helps convince Americans to elect him, he will lead the nation on a sharply different course than the one President Barack Obama has charted for nearly eight years.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, said the debate is a chance for the candidates to make their case directly to voters.

“You know when those two candidates take the stage for the first time in the same place, no more media filters, no more parsing of words,” Pence said at a town hall in Milford, New Hampshire. “The American people are going to be able to hear from two candidates and they’re going to hear about two futures for this country.”

Clinton and Trump are making political points with their choice of guests for the big event.

Clinton has invited billionaire businessman and prominent Trump critic Mark Cuban; 9/11 survivor Lauren Manning; Maxine Outerbridge, who benefited from a children’s health insurance program the Democratic nominee backed as first lady; Anastasia Somoza, a disability rights advocate; and Aleatha Williams, her longtime pen pal.

Boxing promoter Don King, no stranger to big heavyweight fights, is in the audience and is backing Trump. The Republican invited two former members of the military brass who have backed his campaign, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg. He has given great seats to Karen Vaughn, who lost her Navy SEAL son in Afghanistan, and Mark Geist, a survivor of the attacks on a US compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

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