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Immigration put on emphasis at final US presidential debate in swing state

By Samie Al-Dulaimi

WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (KUNA) -- Choosing Las Vegas to host the third and final US presidential debate on Wednesday is significant as the city is located in a multi-cultural swing state, which will put immigration into the spotlight.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will need to sway public opinion in swing or battleground states like Nevada, which has a 27 percent Latino population and other sizeable minorities, in order to tip the scales in their favour come November 8, analysts suggest.

Immigration, which will be one of five topics addressed at the debate, has been a huge talking point during the election campaign, particularly in light of Republican nominee Trump's position on Mexicans and Muslims entering the US.

His "incredibly divisive and negative rhetoric I think has really hurt him among Latinos here," said Prof. John Tuman, who is the Chair of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) - the debate's venue.

"We know from a lot of really well done surveys over the last two months that immigration and immigration reform is their top-rated concern," he said of the Latino community. "It sits more important to them than concern over the economy." The issue of foreign policy in relation to conflict zones, which is also on the list of debate topics, is another which takes somewhat of a significance this year in light of attacks by Islamic State group sympathisers across the US and Europe, said Prof. Tuman.

These attacks "have led to more generalized fear and concern over terrorism" throughout the US, he added.

Where foreign policy is concerned, Trump might also bring up his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which "some of the older voters can relate to." In any case, Prof. Tuman does not think that Democratic candidate Clinton will be thrown "off balance" by what will be a "fairly aggressive" stance assumed by Trump.

"That's not very surprising," he said, as Hillary has been in public life for a long time and issues that Trump brought up at the last debate are "things that are well known" since the end of her husband Bill Clinton's presidency.

And in regards to the Wikileaks revelations which Trump might also use against the Democrat, Tuman added, "I have to say, frankly, I don't see any smoking gun there." The debate's organisers have handpicked Chris Wallace, a seasoned journalist and news presenter at the US news channel Fox News, which is known for its conservative views and perceived inclination towards the Republican party.

But Tuman believes that the debate's format will allow little discretion for the moderator in guiding the dialogue.
The moderator may ask "follow-up questions which might be perceived as being helpful or harmful to one candidate or the other," he said, adding that beyond that he does not think this would make much of a difference.

He also noted that Fox News commentators have been "fairly critical of Trump, even though they're sympathetic to the Republican party more generally."

A Harvard College graduate with over 50 years of experience in journalism, Wallace, has had stints across major US news broadcasters like ABC News and NBC, before settling with Fox News as a leading news anchor.

He has interviewed President Barack Obama four times, has co-moderated three concluded Republican primary debates in the current elections campaign, and has won many journalism awards throughout an illustrious career.

According to Fox News, Wallace's topics of discussion will be on debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the supreme court, foreign policy in relation to conflict zones and fitness to be president, with each topic given a 15-minute period.

The last two debates which hit record viewership across television stations of at least 124 million will receive "fewer viewers" this time, predicted Prof. Tuman, due to Trump's decreasing poll numbers and controversies.

For his part, Deputy Director of Brookings Institution's Center for Effective Public Management and senior fellow in Governance Studies, John Hudak, believes that Clinton has won both previous debates, and that all she should do at the next is "keep performing at the same level." On the other hand, he views that Trump, who is second to Clinton in most nationwide polls, has "significantly set himself back with each debate." Most major polls across the US have Clinton leading her Republican rival.

The recently released CBS News poll has her up by as high as 11 percentage points (51-40) with the Fox News poll released on Tuesday showing a seven-point (49-42) advantage for the Democrat.

In a Nevada state poll conducted by Monmouth, Clinton is also up by seven points in a three-way race, which includes the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson.

Trump needs to keep his composure and "speak significantly about what his vision for America will be like and how it will help the average American," while following the advice of his campaign aides, advised Hudak.

On foreign policy, Hudak, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from Vanderbilt University, believes that Clinton will be more equipped at handling questions on the matter than her Republican rival.

"These are the issues the next president is going to have to think about immediately upon taking office," he said.
Former secretary of state Clinton is "much more educated in terms of foreign policy and understands the issues much more significantly than Donald Trump," said Hudak, adding that discussing the matter would be "challenging" for Trump.
But regardless of how each fare, the moderator Chris Wallace will "not favour one candidate over the other," he underlined.

Wallace is a "real professional (and) realises that his own legacy is at stake," Hudak said, casting aside all doubts over the manipulation of the debate in a way that serves the conservative inclinations of Wallace's employers, US news channel Fox News.

As for the choice of venue with a "majority non-white campus," Hudak underlined that this challenges the candidates to think differently about their policies on immigration which will "matter significantly" to voters in the Silver State. (end) sd.rk