When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet on the debate stage for the first time in late September, it could be their last shot at swinging the race in their direction before November.
"The first debate could draw 100 million viewers," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "Perceptions of the candidates have hardened, but still there might be 40 million who form their perceptions for the first time."
"These debates will probably be the most-watched presidential debates in history," said Brett O'Donnell, a Republican communications professional who helped the Bush-Cheney campaign with debate preparation in 2004 and advised Mitt Romney during the 2012 primary debates.
"While you can't win an election in a debate, you can certainly lose an election in one."
[Clinton] has so relentlessly argued that he is manifestly unqualified and belittled his accomplishments in business that it is relatively easy for Trump to clear the bar that she has set for him.
"They have gone so scorched earth on him that they have moved past him," O'Connell said.