A new ABC News/WAPO poll finds Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a statistical dead heat:

  • Clinton 46%
  • Trump 44%
  • Johnson 5%
  • Stein 1%

More importantly, in key battleground states Trump has significantly cut into the once huge lead Clinton enjoyed in the electoral college.

Which brings us to Monday night. The first presidential debate, expected to be the highest rated political event on television ever.

Americans have waited all year for this first showdown between the billionaire reality TV host casino owner, and the former Secretary of State, US Senator and First Lady.

Here’s what to look for in this historic matchup:

HOW HILLARY CLINTON CAN WIN DEBATE:

She can’t.

Hillary Clinton is the smartest politician in America. She knows the world and every world leader. She has every fact and statistic at her disposal. But just like the smartest kid in class is expected to ace the test, there is nothing Clinton can do that will be above what voters expect of her. Her best case scenario is that undecided and independent voters wake up and realize the presidency is not a reality TV show.

HOW HILLARY CLINTON CAN LOSE THE DEBATE:

  1. Get one fact wrong. If Clinton says something factually incorrect the media will pounce on it and make reference to it for days even if Trump doesn’t give one solid policy proposal of his own.
  2. Have a coughing spell. Clinton’s poll numbers took a big hit after she was forced to take a few days off due to pneumonia. If she has to step away from her lectern to cough, she loses.
  3. Look too mean. As the first woman nominated from a major political party, Clinton still has to show that she can smile and be a mom and grandmother at heart.
  4. Look too weak. As the first woman nominated from a major political party, Clinton still has to show that she’s tough enough to bomb terrorists when she sees them.
  5. Wear the wrong clothes. As the first woman nominated from a major political party, Clinton had better make sure she’s wearing the right color jacket, has the right makeup, and her hair is the right style. (Is it a double standard when all Trump has to do is wear his blue suit and red tie? You bet.)

HOW DONALD TRUMP CAN WIN THE DEBATE:

  1. Don’t foam at the mouth.
  2. Don’t shoot an audience member.
  3. Don’t point out Lester Holt as your “favorite black.” (actually, that probably won’t matter).
  4. Do interrupt Clinton at one point and deliver a witty “you’re fired!”
  5. End every answer with “it’s going to be fantastic and we’ll make America great again.”

HOW DONALD TRUMP CAN LOSE THIS DEBATE:

He can’t.

Expectations are low. Donald Trump just has to stand next to the experienced know-it-all Clinton for 90 minutes and prove to the angry, white, non-college educated, working class voters in battleground states that a 70 year old billionaire, who lives in a gold tower in New York City, is really just one of them.

He’s done it so far.

HOW THE PRESS WILL HELP TRUMP:

The media, always wanting to balance political coverage, will treat the answers from both Clinton and Trump as equal. Despite the fact Clinton will likely give detailed responses to tough questions, her soundbites will be the same length, or probably less, than the simplistic witty soundbites of Trump.

Let’s be honest: We in the media are hoping for a Trump win as much as his supporters. He’s great for ratings and our bottom line. What a dream for the next four years.

Let the debate begin, and good luck Hillary — you’re going to need to it!

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