Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump opened the third and final presidential debate absent the personal attacks that defined their first two meetings and much of the campaign, instead focusing on policy differences ranging from Supreme Court nominees to immigration.
In an early reminder of the immense personal hostility that has defined the campaign, neither candidate made an initial effort to walk across stage and shake hands, the standard protocol in political debates.
But despite the lack of a personal greeting, the candidates did not turn the opening moments into a sideshow of personal attacks involving Trump’s controversial video describing grabbing women’s genitals or Bill Clinton’s history of marital infidelity.
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Instead, moderator Chris Wallace opened with a 15-minute segment on the Supreme Court and the candidates debated their views of the Second Amendment and abortion.
Trump repeated his pledge to appoint pro-life judges, saying his election would lead to overturning Roe v. Wade and converting abortion into an issue decided by individual states. He also cast Clinton’s position refusing to outlaw late-term abortions in dire terms.
“If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that’s OK and Hillary can say that’s OK, but that’s not OK with me.” Trump said.
Clinton responded, disparaging Trump for his choice of words.
“Using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate. You should meet with some of the women I’ve met with,” she said.
Clinton went on to defend her vote on late-term abortions because the legislation being considered by the Senate at the time did not include exceptions for the life or health of the mother.
From there, the candidates sparred on immigration.
Wallace pointed out Clinton’s paid private speech to Brazilian bankers, in which she lauded “free trade, open borders.”
Clinton defended the statement, saying the quote was taken out of context, that she was talking about being able to build a hemispheric energy grid, not blanket immigration policy. She also criticized Trump for his immigration plan, referencing his campaign kickoff, where he called Mexicans “rapists” and “murderers.”
She labeled Trump’s plans for a border wall a fantasy.
“When it comes to the wall Donald talked about, he went to Mexico, had a meeting with the Mexican president, didn’t even raise it. He choked, then he got in a Twitter war when the Mexican president said ‘we’re not paying for that wall.'”
Trump responded, saying the wall would stem illegal immigration and the cross-border drug trade.
“We have no country if we have no borders. We have to have strong borders, we have to keep drugs out of our country.”
Wednesday’s debate comes as Trump trails badly in nearly every national survey, including the UPI/CVoter tracking poll, which shows him down nearly 5 percentage points top Clinton and behind in all but one battleground state.
The debate was held at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
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