Trump-Clinton, reloaded: Candidates prep for high-stakes 2nd presidential debate

© Mike Segar / Brian Snyder / Reuters
Round 2, let’s fight! Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are back for a second bite at the title this Sunday. Both were marred by scandalous revelations on Friday. This debate will be in the town hall format with the audience asking questions.

From Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, this Sunday, October 9 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, the major political party nominees for president face off for the second time. There will be a first time face-off as well, with undecided voters challenging the candidates on the issues.

Again organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, this event will differ in several ways from the first debate a worldwide audience witnessed less than two weeks ago. Not only will the audience, chosen by the Gallup Organization, be asking half of all the questions, but there will be two moderators, Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC News, instead of just one to handle the remainder.

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Like the previous debate, this one will run for 90 minutes without any breaks. It will be aired on all the top networks except for NBC, which will be presenting NFL football, a serious competitor for viewers.

Heat before the debate

As of Friday, the Real Clear Politics average of national election polls dated back to September 26 shows Clinton leading Trump by four-and-a-half points, 48.3 to 43.8 percent. And no, the third-party presidential candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein, did not improve their numbers to the level the debate commission requires for a spot in the debate. In polls released Friday from Quinnipiac and Rasmussen, Johnson was at 6 and 7 percent, while Dr. Stein garnered 3 and 2 percent, respectively.

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However, since Friday both candidates have been marred with separate scandals: 

Hillary's leaked Wall St. speech in which she claimed her and Bill's "fortunes" allowed them to "enjoy" a lifestyle "far removed" from the middle class, and Trump's 2005 hot mic "Grab them by the p***y" bombshell could have a significant impact on poll numbers.

New players among swing states?

This unpredictable election cycle continues to heat up, and the rules of the campaign trail are still being rewritten. Sometimes whole new roads to the White House come under construction without warning.

One example is the state of North Dakota, long considered a safe haven for Republican presidential candidates. That red state, however, seems to be veering toward battleground status, as RT's Ed Schultz hosted a political town hall in Fargo on Thursday night.

What we might hear

The candidates are expected to address some of the most important issues facing America, such as climate change, gun control and social security, but don't be surprised if Trump's stance on women (i.e. hot mic) and Clinton's never-ending email debacle are brought up too. 

“I hope that unlike the first debate, there's actually real discussion over things Americans care about,” Ryan Girdusky of RedAlertPolitics.com told RT on Friday. But he isn’t holding his breath.

“I think Trump is going to be a lot more of an attack dog. I think there's going to be a lot more training under [vice presidential running mate] Mike Pence and consultation under [campaign manager] Kellyanne [Conway].”

“And I think what Hillary is going to do is try to stick to the Clinton playbook of make Trump go down a rabbit hole,” Girdusky added. “Talk about his taxes, talk about his affairs, his relationships, talk about his money, talk about his hair, who knows, but get him away from the issues.”

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Whatever happens Sunday night, it will determine how much momentum each candidate has with the homestretch in sight. The election will be just four weeks away, with the final debate taking place Wednesday, October 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

According to a Politico report, Clinton is by far best positioned to steer the direction of the final days of the presidential race. Her campaign and affiliated accounts have $150 million on hand as of early October, in addition to $80 million already set aside for TV ads as well as more money for direct voter outreach. The report calculates the Clinton camp can afford to spend almost $5 million every single day ahead of November 8, and that does not count the Democratic National Committee coffers of around $11.5 million, from September reports, or the Priorities USA Action Super PAC, which began September with $40 million.

The real estate tycoon, however, reported just $38 million at the start of September, compared to the Republican National Committee with $40.5 million, Politico reported. Other committees supporting Trump have not reported their totals since July.