Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's ugly and acrimonious battle for the White House is barreling toward the end, with the candidates taking the debate stage Wednesday night for one final prime-time showdown. For Trump, the debate is perhaps his last opportunity to turn around a race that appears to be slipping away from him. His predatory comments about women and a flood of sexual-assault accusations have deepened his unpopularity with women and limited his pathways to victory. His supporters remain intensely loyal, but there are few signs he's attracting the new backers he desperately needs.
Clinton takes the stage facing challenges of her own. While the electoral map is leaning in her favor, the Democrat is facing a new round of questions about her authenticity and trustworthiness, concerns that have trailed her throughout the campaign. The hacking of her top campaign adviser's emails revealed a candidate who is averse to apologizing, can strike a different tone in private than in public, and makes some decisions only after painstaking political deliberations.
The last in a trio of presidential debates, Wednesday's contest in Las Vegas comes just under three weeks from Election Day and with early voting already underway in several key battleground states.
Trump has leaned on an increasingly brazen strategy in the campaign's closing weeks, including peddling charges that the election will be rigged, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in US presidential contests. He has also charged that Clinton attacked and intimidated women involved with her husband's affairs, bringing three women who accused former President Bill Clinton of unwanted sexual contact and even rape to sit in the audience for the second debate. The former president has never been charged with crimes related to the encounters, though he did settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit.
Trump is bringing President Barack Obama's half-brother, Malik Obama, as his debate guest. Clinton is bringing billionaire and frequent Trump critic Mark Cuban and Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, one of the former secretary of state's highest-profile Republican backers. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the Democratic nominee would be ready for any "scorched-earth tactics" from Trump in Wednesday's debate.
Clinton, who has meticulously prepared for the three debates at the expense of time in battleground states, visibly rattled Trump in their first showdown by using his own controversial comments about women and minorities against him. The businessman was on the defense at the start of the second debate - which came days after the release of a video in which he brags about kissing and grabbing women - but ended on stronger footing, hammering Clinton for being a creature of Washington who won't be able to bring about change.
Trump denied in the second debate that he had made the kind of unwanted sexual advances he is heard describing on the video. His denial prompted some of the women who have since publicly accused him of assault to come forward. The debate proper starts 2am Thursday (Nigerian time), the 20th of October, 2016.