Inside the presidential debates

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have two debates left before the Nov. 8 election. Here’s your guide to how the candidates’ debating styles could clash in the highly anticipated presidential debates. For real-time political analysis during the debates, head to Trail Guide.

From political experience to debate styles, these two candidates couldn't be more different. Here's how they stack up against each other.


Age: 68

Party: Democrat

Number of opponents faced in debates: 4

Debate strengths: Policy knowledge, previous debate experience

Money raised by the end of August: $530 million

Political offices held: Senator (NY), Secretary of State

Races won in primaries: 34


Age: 70

Party: Republican

Number of opponents faced in debates: 9

Debate strengths: Extensive television background, unscripted speaking style

Money raised by the end of August: $185.5 million

Political offices held: None

Races won in primaries: 41

Trump dominated the Republican primary debates with off-the-cuff remarks and controversial statements. His style seemed to throw opponents off guard, allowing him to steal the show in a crowded field.


In this clip, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio attempted to trip up Trump by drawing attention to his hiring of workers who were in the United States illegally. Trump fired back, highlighting Rubio’s lack of business experience.

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Clinton held her own over the course of nine Democratic primary debates, relying on detailed policy knowledge as she squared off against chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.


Asked about her shifting positions on issues over the years, Clinton tried to emphasize points of consistency in her record. Look for her to continue that as she tries to reassure voters who worry about her trustworthiness.

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To get ready for the debates, Clinton brought in Democratic strategists, while Trump sought advice from high-profile media personalities and former Republican politicians.

Clinton has prepared using traditional techniques such as mock sessions, but the campaign has not disclosed who is playing Trump as she practices.


  • Political operative Ronald Klain
  • Policy advisor Jake Sullivan
  • Lawyer Karen Dunn
  • Senior strategist Joel Benenson

Trump has suggested he might not hold mock debates, and will rely on the unscripted, off-the-cuff style he demonstrated during the primaries. Whether that’s true or spin remains uncertain.


  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
  • Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham
  • Former FOX CEO Roger Ailes

Because Clinton was always favored to win the nomination, the Democratic debates got much smaller audiences than the GOP contests, who wanted to see Trump spar with the many other candidates.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times "Daybreak" poll has Trump heading into the debate with a lead over Clinton. But the race has shifted many times. A strong debate performance from Clinton could close the gap. If Trump dominates, he could widen his lead.

Sources: Times reporting, Nielsen.

Credits: Additional reporting by Kyle Kim and Anthony Pesce. Photos by Associated Press and Getty Images.