Millionaire Republican Donald Trump isn't just on the ropes: he's practically upside-down and tangled up in them, trailing his opponent by huge margins and seemingly finished in the race to become the next president of the United States of America. But Hillary Clinton is an infamously weak closer, leading to amusements like this New Yorker cartoon…
… which reminds us that the older Millennials are nearing 40 and have New Yorker subscriptions.
All the "what to expect from the third debate" articles–which I had intended to aggregate here–are surprisingly bland, given the sheer insanity of the campaign and its increasingly deranged closing weeks. I guess this is because everyone acknowledges that there is such a huge difference in expectations between the two candidates that it's not really a "debate" at all. If Trump manages to get through it without sniffing or frotting his chair, he's done OK. If Hillary umms and ahhs too much, she's missed an opportunity to crush the bug. No-one–not pundits, not journalists, not viewers–expects anything of substance to be said. It is all about the performance, about the hope that one of them will lose it and do something entertaining.
Trump's invited president Barack Obama's half-brother as his guest, a choice so inexplicable it suggests a return to Birtherism amid rumors Trump's been ditched by advisor Roger Ailes and simply has no idea what to do. Hillary's invited the least awful billionaire she can think of, just to remind Trump that he isn't one.
All that said, it's going to be the most-watched third debate ever. We are all transfixed, and the stakes are so high that even the possibility of either candidate landing a true rhetorical haymaker seems too delicious to miss. With this in mind, here are my predictions for this evening's confrontation in Vegas:
• Trump will finally give us some good, proper, unhinged conspiracy rantage. It'll be entertaining and surprisingly effective, bringing the noise floor of televised media significantly closer to that of the internet.
• Clinton will finally choke in a way that seems genuinely bad — probably over Wikileaks stuff that could be easily dealt with by laughter.
• She will go on the attack to compensate, and this will be fun. He'll do his Mussolini frown. She won't rip his spinal column out and dangle it before the audience as a 1000-year-old demon king claps maniacally, but there'll be a couple of good quotes.
• The argument will settle down to the same old boring stuff we're used to, receding into the kingdom of irrelevance faster than a 1990s Veep debate.
• I will receive at least one plaintive, genuinely appalled plea to stop photoshopping the candidates for my posts.
POST-DEBATE UPDATE: Trump went full-bore conspiracy theorist, Clinton stumbled only a little on Wikileaks stuff, but I was dead wrong about one thing: the debate did not settle down afterward. Trump refused to say he'd accept the result of the election, called Clinton a "nasty woman" and generally reminded all watching that his 40% is his 40% and it isn't going to go away.