Presidential debate: Clinton, Trump open sparring on economy

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Sept. 26 (UPI) — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton opened their much anticipated first presidential debate with a spirited exchange on the economy.

The exchange featured Clinton lobbing several personal jabs, dogging Trump for starting his business empire with a “$14 million loan from his father.”

Trump responded, saying he got a “small loan” from his father.

Both candidates reverted in part to very similar remarks to those they offer frequently on the campaign trail, with Clinton calling for greater investment in clean energy. Trump assailed trade deals he said benefit foreign competitors, specifically China and Mexico. He called for them to be renegotiated to more favorable terms for the United States.

“Secretary Clinton and others, other politicians, should have been doing this for years,” he said.

When Trump referred to Clinton as “Secretary Clinton” it signaled a shift from much of his campaign rhetoric, referring to her by her government title after having served as secretary of state, rather than the moniker “crooked Hillary” he uses frequently before supporters and on Twitter.

After Trump used the term “Secretary Clinton” he turned to her and asked: “Is that OK? I want you to be very happy, it’s important to me.”

Clinton didn’t respond.

Monday’s debate, being held at Hofstra University on Long Island, promised to be the most-watched political event in recent history, with a television audience of more than 100 million.

Coming into the debate, much was made of how the candidates would work to overcome the skepticism they have struggled to overcome with large swaths of the electorate. Polls show Clinton has struggled to prove to voters she is trustworthy, while Trump has struggled to prove to voters he has the temperament necessary for a successful presidency.

After a post-convention bump that saw Clinton holding a wide lead, the race has tightened significantly, raising the stakes for Monday night’s debate. The UPI/CVoter tracking poll shows Clinton with a narrow lead nationally, but Trump leading in the electoral college, and would win the presidency if the election were held today.

Eleven battleground states that will likely decide the election show the candidates running within 5 percentage points of one another, meaning a strong performance by one candidate — or a serious stumble by another — could have an immense impact on the trajectory of the race.

And while Election Day is still more than a month away, the aftermath of Monday’s debate could be felt much sooner. The first early ballots will be cast in Illinois this week and over the next two weeks, seven states will begin early voting.

There are two more presidential debates scheduled, along with the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4 between Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence.

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