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First debate between Clinton and Trump to focus on economy, security, vision for the future

By Eric DuVall
First debate between Clinton and Trump to focus on economy, security, vision for the future
Viewership for the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could top 100 million, according to some television estimates. UPI file

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The Commission on Presidential Debates has announced the three themes that will be covered in the much-anticipated first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday.

The debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments, with two segments covering each of three themes: "America's direction," "securing America" and "achieving prosperity." Specific topics and questions will be formulated by the debate moderator, Lester Holt of NBC News.

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The commission said no further information will be divulged about the topics or questions prior to Monday's debate and the themes are subject to change if intervening news warrants it.

Trump, who was critical of debate moderators during the Republican primary, offered some praise for Holt, saying he is a "professional" but later saying Holt, like all the moderators, is biased against conservatives.

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"I have respect for Lester," Trump told Fox News. "Lester is a professional, but we'll see what happens. By the way, Lester is a Democrat. It's a phony system. They are all Democrats."

The timing of the debate was previously called into question by Trump and the Republican National Committee, who petitioned the debate commission to move it to a different night so it would not conflict with the nationally televised Monday Night Football game. The commission declined.

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Despite the conflict for sports fans, the debate is expected to draw huge viewership. Seventy-five percent of likely voters surveyed recently said they plan to watch the two candidates face off. Media companies have predicted a total viewership between 80 million and 120 million people.

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The 90-minute debate will be simulcast on all the major news networks, including broadcast and cable, leaving ESPN the lone major network to carry a live alternative. It will air without commercial interruption.

The Wall Street Journal reported ratings companies expect a significant drop-off in the normal Monday Night Football viewership, mostly due to the high interest in the debate, though it does not help the cause that the match-up between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons features two teams that missed the playoffs last year. Consequently, the NFL's advertising rate for the broadcast is the least expensive of the season for the prime-time game. Ratings companies told the Journal ad rates are down 15 percent to 20 percent from other Monday Night Football broadcasts.

The debate will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. Eastern across the country. It will take place at Hofstra University on Long Island, outside New York City.

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