From Hempstead, New York -
In what may well turn out to be one of the most-watched events in American political history, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will gather here at Hofstra University for the first of three face-to-face debate showdowns over the next four weeks, with the race tightening in many state and national polls.
Both sides did their best in recent days to set expectations, raise questions about the other candidate, and supposedly leak out tidbits about what their candidate is - or is not doing to get ready for these debates.
"I don't envy team Clinton right now," said Jim Manley, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked for both Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Harry Reid.
As for how Clinton should approach Trump, Manley said his advice is to "be as aggressive as possible."
"Don't go in the gutter with the guy but press him hard," the Capitol Hill veteran said.
"He can't let Hillary get under his skin," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said of Trump, who at first proclaimed that he wasn't doing much debate prep, but then supposedly stood for five hours of mock questions to get ready.
Trump backers argue that he will be ready, no matter what Clinton does on Monday night.
"I hope he'll beat expectations, like he did in the Commander in Chief event," said former Trump aide Michael Caputo.
"But not knowing how he's preparing, I'm nervous as a cat," Caputo said. "The race is so volatile it could turn on this event."
Some believe Clinton's game plan will be to find a way to jab at Trump, get under his skin and get him aggravated - in hopes of creating an outburst or some kind of unforced error.
But that approach only had limited success when other Republicans tried it in the GOP primary debates, as Trump was often ready with a sharp verbal rejoinder.
For Trump, this is an arena the likes of which he has never experienced. But he showed us in the primaries that he could certainly deal with the TV spotlight just fine.
Clinton is seen as a good debater - but going against Trump is unlike anything that she has ever done before.
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