Donald Trump will win the debate. He has absolutely no expectations he must meet. Other than, perhaps, not completely losing it and punching his opponent. All of the weight rests on Hillary Clinton’s shoulders tonight. While I expect her to be adequate in both her temperament and rhetoric, the only way she wins is if she is exceptional and successfully baits Trump into exposing himself as the ignorant con man that we know him to be. It is more likely, however, that any attempt by her to do that will backfire, as she seems incapable of running a competent general election campaign so far.
For months I had said that a one-on-one debate would never happen if Trump was the nominee. After all, he ducked small settings in the primary because they would expose his lack of knowledge and his overall incompetence. So I fully expected him to manufacture a controversy to duck out of the debates in the general. However, the Clinton campaign has been so miserable these last few weeks and Trump has, in relative terms, behaved himself. So now the polling is close and Trump may only have to hold serve these final six weeks in order to win.
Therefore I expect Trump to give a series of 45-second answers and either end with plenty of time left on the clock, or pivot to a non sequitur attack on Clinton or the moderator or the mainstream media or the military or fat people or left handers or whoever he wants to mock/blame/whine about at that moment.
Even Trump’s greatest, most deluded supporters have very low expectations of him. I expect he’ll meet them. Clinton needs a water cooler moment, and I doubt she’ll get one.