Louisville Political Consultant Pleads Guilty In Tim Longmeyer Probe Wednesday, Sep 28 2016 

Louisville political consultant Larry O’Bryan pleaded guilty Wednesday to serving as a middleman in a corrupt kickback scheme involving former state official Tim Longmeyer.

O’Bryan acknowledged in federal court in Lexington that he helped funnel payoffs between a contractor and Longmeyer, a longtime Democratic Party insider from Louisville who for years served as secretary of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet.

Longmeyer pleaded guilty in April to accepting kickbacks from a Lexington consulting company in return for helping secure contracts with Humana and Anthem, administrators of the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan. Longmeyer is scheduled to appear in court Thursday for sentencing.

Prosecutors signaled their intent to charge O’Bryan earlier this month in documents filed under seal. His deal with the federal government was unveiled Wednesday when O’Bryan appeared in court and pleaded guilty to three counts of bribery tied to a program receiving federal funds.

O’Bryan agreed to pay $642,201 to the state — the same amount of the kickback payments he received from the consulting company, according to his guilty plea. He was released on bond and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Each count carries with it a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, though federal guidelines call for a total sentence of less than nine years.

In his plea, O’Bryan acknowledged he, Longmeyer and another person — identified as “S.M.” — participated in the kickback scheme. Those initials match those of Sam McIntosh, whose MC Squared Consulting offices in Lexington were raided by the FBI on the same day that Longmeyer was charged. McIntosh, who could not be immediately reached for comment, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. MC Squared has not reopened since the raid.

In exchange for the work, “S.M.” paid O’Bryan half of MC Squared’s proceeds from its Humana contract. O’Bryan would withhold some of the money for taxes and then kick back half of the remaining funds to Longmeyer, according to court filings.

The government says that Longmeyer helped MC Squared get more than $2 million worth of business and took about $200,000 in kickbacks.

(Read KyCIR’s coverage of the Longmeyer case)

O’Bryan spent nearly three decades in politics as a Democratic Party activist and consultant. He dubbed himself “the most successful political media consultant in Louisville” on his company’s website. His created the company, Pro-Active Media, in 1995.

MC Squared had provided election campaign services for more than two decades. McIntosh, a former Kentucky Democratic Party pollster and staffer who has planned campaigns, conducted polls and bought media time for people running for state and local offices.

Longmeyer was secretary of the state Personnel Cabinet under former Gov. Steve Beshear from January 2011 through September 2015. On Jan. 3, newly elected Attorney General Andy Beshear, the former governor’s son, appointed him as his chief deputy at an annual salary of $124,620. Longmeyer resigned on March 23, just two days before he was charged with bribery.

Read his plea agreement:

Larry O’Bryan Plea Agreement


Managing Editor Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy@kycir.org or (502) 814.6541.

Bevin Taunts Beshear In Text, Calls AG’s Office ‘An Embarrassment’ Wednesday, Sep 28 2016 

Attorney General Andy Beshear says he got an unsolicited text message from Gov. Matt Bevin Tuesday evening calling his office an “embarrassment to the Commonwealth.”

In a screenshot of the text released by Beshear, the message reads:

beshear-bevin-textAttorney General Andy Beshear’s office

Bevin’s office confirmed that the governor sent Beshear a text but accused the attorney general of manipulating the message to exclude a link Bevin included. The link was to a Herald-Leader article that detailed allegations of misconduct by an investigator in the attorney general’s office.

Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s press secretary, accused Beshear of attempting to mislead reporters.

“Is it any wonder that multiple employees who work for the AG’s office have so little regard for the truth and the rule of law,” Stamper said in an emailed statement. “The governor was correct. The deceitful behavior of the AG and a number of his staff are an increasing embarrassment to Kentucky. We all deserve better.”

Beshear’s spokesman, Terry Sebastian, said the attorney general received the link and the text in two separate messages.

“The fact remains that instead of working with our office, the governor chose to spend his time sending an attacking text to the attorney general instead of governing the Commonwealth,” Sebastian said.

The text is the latest spat in an ongoing feud between the Republican governor and Democratic attorney general.

Bevin has approved a $500,000 contract for a law firm to investigate alleged corruption in the administration of his predecessor, Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear’s father.

Weeks after taking office, Bevin removed former first lady Jane Beshear’s name from the Kentucky Horse Park Commission. He also removed her name from an education center next to the state Capitol building.

For his part, Andy Beshear has sued Bevin three times — over Bevin’s mid-year budget cuts to public colleges and universities, Bevin’s reorganization of the University of Louisville board of trustees and reorganization of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board.

Former Gov. Beshear has also been a vocal opponent of Bevin’s overhaul of healthcare in Kentucky by scrapping the state health exchange and applying to change the Medicaid expansion.

Beshear said the text message was the first he had received from Bevin.

“Being the adult in the room, I did not respond,” he said.

Judge Rules Bevin Can’t Overhaul U of L Board Wednesday, Sep 28 2016 

A judge has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin cannot unilaterally reorganize a public university’s board of trustees and dismiss all of its members, calling it an “unprecedented assertion of executive power.”

In June, Bevin issued an executive order abolishing the University of Louisville’s board of trustees, citing dysfunction on the board. He later created a new board and appointed all new members. Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin over the move.

Though state law allows governors to unilaterally reorganize state boards, the power had never been applied to a public university board.

On Wednesday, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the governor can’t remove public university board members without cause.

“Governors, who have not been shy about asserting executive powers, have dealt with these situations by requesting (and obtaining) resignations of board members, or have allowed the disputes to be settled through the normal administrative and judicial processes,” Shepherd wrote in his opinion. “No prior Governor has ever attempted to invoke the re-organization power…to address problems in the governance of public universities.”

Shepherd had already temporarily blocked Bevin’s reorganization of the U of L board while the lawsuit was pending. The “old” version of the board has been meeting since last month.

Bevin has not filled five vacancies on the board as the case continues to unfold in the courts. He will have the opportunity to appeal the case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals or request that it be fast-tracked to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Beshear called on Bevin to accept the ruling and fill the vacancies or appeal the case.

“What our students and faculty need now is finality,” Beshear said. “That is why I am calling on Bevin to either accept the ruling and appoint trustees to the five openings, or agree to move this case immediately to the Kentucky Supreme Court.”

U of L Foundation chair Brucie Moore issued a statement saying she believed Shepherd’s opinion followed the law and called on Bevin to immediately fill the five vacancies on the Board of Trustees.

“The Board needs the expertise of the additional members to assist in dealing with the complex issues inherent in the operations of a university,” Moore said. “In March, Bevin agreed to appoint at least two minority members. At the very least, I encourage Bevin to make those two appointments so the Board of Trustees can begin the critical business of searching for a new University President.”

Moore also said Bevin could make those appointments and still maintain his arguments if he decided to appeal the ruling.

In a statement, U of L Board chair Larry Benz said he “will continue to not make any comments on legal matters regarding the Board of Trustees.”

“It is an honor and a privilege for all appointed trustees to serve the University of Louisville,” Benz said. “We look forward to continuing with Dr. Pinto and the Office of the President, students, faculty and staff in the ongoing progression of student success, breakthrough research and community engagement.”

Acting university president Neville Pinto said he looks forward “to a final resolution of this issue.”

“In the meantime, the University of Louisville continues in its commitment to providing high quality education to our students, conducting groundbreaking research and being engaged in the community we serve,” Pinto said in a written statement.

Bevin abolished the 17-member U of L board last month in a surprise announcement, citing “dysfunction” and “enmity” between factions on the board. In his executive order, Bevin said the behavior was “seriously damaging to the entire University community.”

Over recent years, divisions had emerged on the board between supporters and detractors of former university president James Ramsey.

In his order, Shepherd criticized the governor’s assessment of the board, saying that the “charges malign the integrity and competence of Board members.”

“The charges were leveled by the Governor with no notice to Board members of the charges, no opportunity to contest their validity, and no recourse whatsoever, solely by the unilateral fiat of the Governor,” Shepherd wrote. “He served as judge, jury, and executioner of the incumbent Board.”

At the same time Bevin announced the reorganization, he distributed a letter from Ramsey that revealed he would step down from his post as president. In the letter to the governor, Ramsey stated that he “appreciated our recent conversation,” described a need for a “fresh start” and then declared that he would retire or resign.

In the order, Shepherd said that the correspondence “confirms” that Ramsey agreed to resign if Bevin abolished the U of L board, which the judge said violates state law.

“Accordingly, the Court makes a factual finding, based on the only evidence in the record, that the Governor improperly agreed to fire and replace the Board of Trustees as a condition of obtaining Dr. Ramsey’s agreement to resign,” Shepherd wrote.

The move has raised concerns with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits U of L. Last month, SACS sent a letter to the school’s interim president, Neville Pinto, citing concerns with Bevin’s “alleged negotiation of the resignation of a university president” and “removal of board members without due process.”

At issue is whether the organization thinks there is “undue political influence” on the school’s governance, which is forbidden by SACS’ accreditation principles.

This story has been updated. 

AG Beshear Calls On Bevin To Release Funds To Kentucky Universities Tuesday, Sep 27 2016 

Kentucky’s Attorney General is accusing Governor Matt Bevin of “dragging his feet” on returning millions of dollars to the state’s colleges and universities.

A 5-2 ruling from the state Supreme Court last week ordered Bevin to restore the funding he cut from university budgets. The court sided with the attorney general who argued that Bevin doesn’t have the authority to reduce spending levels unless there is a budget shortfall.

The governor has until the middle of next month to ask the high court to revisit the case.

During a visit Monday to Western Kentucky University, Beshear said the governor should release the $18 million back to the state’s colleges and universities.

“The funds are sitting in a special account, so there’s no reason to delay,” Beshear told WKU Public Radio. “This governor’s been about cutting the red tape and the bureaucracy, so let’s cut the red tape, the bureaucracy, and provide those funds.”

Bevin has said his office is “looking at our options.” He has 20 days from the date of the ruling to ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to reconsider the case. Beshear said the outcome is unlikely to change given the 5-2 decision.

Here’s a breakdown of how much money each institution will receive once funds are released:

Eastern Kentucky University: $1,360,700
Kentucky State University: not included in budget cuts
Morehead State University: $866,800
Murray State University: $960,500
Northern Kentucky University: $970,800
University of Kentucky: $5,592,200
University of Louisville: $2,781,500
Western Kentucky University: $1,493,000
KCTCS: $3,803,200

Who Got What They Wanted From The First Clinton-Trump Debate? Tuesday, Sep 27 2016 

You could see the contrast in the eyes of the respective candidates’ spokespersons, surrogates and family members after the first presidential debate of 2016 had wrapped.

As always, earnest efforts were made on both sides to claim victory — even insist on it — after the nationally televised clash between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“Trump was especially strong on the issues in the first 45 minutes,” said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on CNN.

Yet a general and clear consensus formed quickly among the snap pollsters, focus groups, reporters, commentators and TV panelists. And it did not favor Trump.

In sum: Clinton projected more of what she wanted than Trump, who did not strike the contrast or meet the expectations set up by his own campaign.

What was less clear was whether the voters got what they wanted from the debate. Did they learn what they lacked about the candidates? Did the undecided gain some guidance in their decision?

Clinton surprised by navigating a rather complicated passage through multiple challenges. She had to be energetic but serious, tough but pleasant, candid but charming, forceful but warm and human. It seemed a puzzle, yet she emerged with a smile — and even a bit of a shoulder shimmy late in the debate at a moment when she felt especially good.

By contrast, Trump had just one salient objective — to project a calm and presidential air — and yet, he struggled with it.

The contrast between her complex task and his simple focus was widely noted, and roundly criticized by those who said it set too low a bar for Trump to succeed. Some said he merely needed to show up to gain stature on stage and, thereby, to win no worse than a split decision.

Similarly, many of us expected his freewheeling style to connect far more effectively onscreen than her schoolteacher stress on process and policy.

But Trump was not quite successful in bringing his campaign-rally style to the small stage and the split-screen camera format. He began at a debate volume but segued to sports arena mode, speaking as if addressing a big crowd of supporters eager to cheer whatever he said.

Meanwhile, the often dour Clinton manner gave way to beaming smiles and occasional chuckles. Remarkably, she seemed to be having a good time. That has rarely been said about her big public showdowns in 2016. It recalled, instead, her back-to-back hits of last fall: testifying before the House committee investigating the Benghazi incident and then eclipsing four rivals for the Democratic nomination in their first debate.

There were those who said that Trump, too, got what he needed on Monday night. While he did not land any roundhouse blows, he put points on the board repeatedly and drew blood on the use of private email issue. He assailed manufacturing job losses to foreign countries, unfair trade practices by competitor nations, and the rise of ISIS abroad and violent crime at home.

But what seemed a fair fight through the early rounds deteriorated thereafter. Trump sniffled audibly and gulped drinks of water, often glowering and gripping his lectern. And as the debate lengthened, his temper grew shorter.

He grew increasingly snappish toward Clinton and toward NBC moderator Lester Holt. When corrected by Holt on the birther myth, his view of the Iraq War and federal court decisions on a certain police tactic called “stop and frisk,” Trump disputed the corrections. And when needled by Clinton about his various vulnerabilities, he shot back — often with more anger than aim.

When she said he had paid no federal income taxes at times in his business career and suggested he might not have paid them in recent years, either, Trump replied: “That makes me smart.”

When she said he had cheered the collapse of the housing market in 2008 because it enabled him to buy distressed properties cheaply, he came back with: “That’s called business, by the way.”

Trump was as likely to lean into his microphone and talk when it was not his turn as he was when it was. He offered interjections when Clinton was speaking, and often demanded time to respond on a given issue even after Holt wanted to move on.

At one point, he jabbed at Clinton for being off the campaign trail in recent days to prepare for the debate. “Yes, I did,” she said. “And you know what I else I prepared for? I prepared to be president.”

Near the end of the debate, Holt asked about a comment Trump had made regarding Clinton’s looks. Trump said that was really about stamina for the job, which he said she lacked. Clinton, clearly prepared for the topic, went after Trump for his comments about a contestant in one of his beauty pageants, a Hispanic woman he had referred to as “Miss Housekeeping.”

While there was a lot of conflict, the debate did not do much to fulfill the needs of voters seeking information beyond the candidates’ personae. Many issues went unmentioned, including the current prospect of a government shutdown in Washington over a pending measure to fund the government, the lack of consideration for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, the need for funding to fight the Zika virus, and demand for federal dollars for flood victims in Louisiana and lead-poisoning victims in Flint, Mich. There was also surprisingly little discussion of immigration, or Trump’s famous proposal for a wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

It was also hard to say whether undecided voters got much guidance from the debate, which took place before a mostly silent audience at Hofstra University in suburban Hempstead on New York’s Long Island. The first post-debate surveys showed little sign that the uncommitted were moved. (Although in the past, such movement has been more visible in the days after a debate than on the night of the event.)

A second debate will be held in St. Louis on Oct. 9 and a third in Las Vegas on Oct. 19.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Louisville Millennials Weigh In On First Presidential Debate Tuesday, Sep 27 2016 

As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off in person for the first time, about 100 University of Louisville students laughed, groaned and cheered their way through a presidential debate watch party on campus Monday night.

The millennial cohort could be especially important for Clinton, who is trying to consolidate young liberal voters who might opt for a third party candidate.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, Clinton got just 31 percent of support among likely voters between ages 18 and 34. Though Trump trails at 26 percent, 29 percent support libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 15 percent support Green Party candidate Jill Stein, per the poll.

Dominic Cinquina, a junior at U of L majoring in marketing, said he’s an undecided voter, but he was leaning away from Donald Trump after Monday’s debate.

“I don’t really trust his temperament,”Cinquina said. “It seemed like tonight he really struggled even trying to form a sentence in any sort of rebuttal on a pretty civil debate. I don’t think that’s necessarily going to transfer to the White House well.”

Roughly 100 students gathered at U of L to watch the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday. Ryland Barton | wfpl.org

Roughly 100 students gathered at U of L to watch the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday.

Trump interrupted Clinton many times during the debate, the first of three this fall. The event was also the first time Clinton and Trump had appeared onstage together during this election.

Victoria Carrier is a junior majoring in psychology at U of L. She said she supported Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and has been slow to come around to Clinton — a concern among Clinton supporters nervous about her ability to draw Democratic voters to the polls.

“I don’t get to be proud to vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s more like proud that I’m not voting for Donald Trump,” said Carrier, who will be voting for president for the first time this year.

Hayden Williams, a senior majoring in economics and a Trump supporter, said the debate was a “good show” but expected Trump to perform better in future events.

“I was a little surprised by the lack of aggression on behalf of Donald Trump. But in a way it’s kind of to be expected, there’s more debates ahead,” Williams said.

The next debate is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 9.

LISTEN: Senate Candidate Jim Gray On Rural Kentucky, Rand Paul’s Record Monday, Sep 26 2016 

Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race has moved at a sluggish pace compared with the heated matchup between Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes, two years ago.

Lexington Democratic mayor, Jim Gray, is trying to unseat first-term Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who also made a run for president before suspending his campaign earlier this year. The two have squared off — mostly through spokespeople and written statements — about issues including gun control, revitalizing the coal industry and finding solutions to the opioid epidemic.

The two men finally made a joint public appearance at this year’s Fancy Farm picnic. Paul attacked Gray’s record as the mayor of Lexington, homing in on a development fiasco that has left a giant construction pit in the center of the city’s downtown. Gray attacked Paul for running for president while remaining in the Senate.

I sat down with Gray to talk about the race and the Senate seat. We’ve extended the same invitation to Paul and hope to have an interview with him in the coming weeks.

Listen to my conversation with Jim Gray in the audio player above.

Gray on relating to rural Kentuckians:

“I grew up in Glasgow, in southern Kentucky. I’m a seventh-generation Kentuckian — spent half my life there. Our family’s business started there, and we’ve done projects all over Kentucky — more than 500 projects in 53 counties in Kentucky. And we’ve helped create more than 20,000 jobs; more than 20,000 people a day walk through the doors of plants built by Gray Construction, and that’s just in Kentucky.”

On Paul’s work in the Senate:

“I’m always gonna give people credit for good intentions, and I would do that. But let’s look at Senator Paul, what he’s actually done while he’s been in the Senate. He’s been focused on the White House. He was sworn in and it wasn’t but a few months before he was actually in Iowa and New Hampshire. Now in full disclosure, admittedly he was was then out stumping for his father. But clearly it transitioned very quickly to he was stumping for himself in other places.”

4 Things To Watch At The First Presidential Debate Monday, Sep 26 2016 

The first presidential debate tonight is shaping up to be one of the most-watched political events ever, with a potentially Super Bowl-size audience.

Here are four things to watch for as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the stage at Hofstra University on Long Island.

1. Which Trump shows up

Donald Trump “won” the primary debates by dominating his opponents, often by name-calling and bluster. This one will be different.

Instead of facing multiple opponents, he will be doing something he’s never done before — face off against just one opponent (and in this case an experienced one) on a debate stage.

Trump’s goal is to present himself as a plausible president, someone voters can imagine as commander in chief. And he has work to do, since majorities of voters say he doesn’t have the judgment or qualifications to be president. So Trump needs to show a basic command of policy — and in particular, his own policies. He has made so many contradictory statements about his plans for Syria, ISIS, tax reform and crime fighting that he will have a real thicket to untangle.

Trump wants to reach those voters who won’t want to vote for Clinton but are worried about his temperament. Does that mean the new “teleprompter Trump” will show up tonight? He has proven that he can maintain a little more discipline in a set-piece speech, but there are no teleprompters in a 90-minute debate.

And although Trump benefits from low expectations, his team isn’t even trying to make him out to be the underdog. On Sunday morning, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, called him “the Babe Ruth of debating.”

2. Whether Clinton can navigate the gender minefield

Clinton has the much tougher task tonight. She has the burden of high expectations.

The former senator and secretary of state, who has now been through two presidential campaigns, is an experienced debater who knows policy inside and out.

But her job is very hard — Clinton has to convince voters who don’t want to vote for Trump but haven’t warmed up to her that she is likeable, honest and trustworthy. And she has to press her case that Trump is unqualified to be president without being overly aggressive or “harsh.”

Gender communications research shows that debaters who are on offense win, and those that are on defense lose. But being on offense for a woman is tricky. Male debaters who are aggressive are perceived positively; female politicians who are aggressive in debates are perceived negatively.

So Clinton has to stay on offense without being angry. All of that advice about “smiling” that drives Clinton’s supporters nuts? It’s unfair, but that’s just the way it is, says Brett O’Donnell, a veteran Republican debate coach: “People like to see a happy warrior. Clinton has to look like she’s enjoying herself even if she’s not.”

3. The moderator

Both campaigns have been working the refs hard. Trump has said the debate system is “rigged” against him, and he falsely accused NBC’s Lester Holt, the moderator for tonight’s debate, of being a registered Democrat. Holt is an experienced journalist who happens to be a registered Republican.

The Clinton campaign, on the other hand, has complained about a double-standard. It says the media creates a “false equivalence” between Trump’s falsehoods and Clinton’s, even though numerous fact checks have shown that Trump prevaricates many more times than Clinton does.

In the recent NBC commander-in-chief forum, Clinton’s top aides said moderator Matt Lauer grilled Clinton a lot more intensely than Trump. And they say that for tonight’s debate the moderator and the TV networks — with the crawl at the bottom of the screen — have a responsibility to fact-check Trump in real time.

4. Which campaign better argues that it “won”

There are three phases to a debate:

First, the pregame expectations-setting and referee-massaging, which has been going on at a furious pace over the past week.

Second, the debate itself.

And third, the post-debate spin.

Debates are not forums to score policy points. They are tests of character and demeanor. And they are often judged not in their totality, but by “moments” — the zingers and put-downs that the candidates prepare in advance. Those moments — “Where’s the beef?” “You’re no Jack Kennedy,” “There you go again” — help determine who voters think won or lost the debate.

But there are many debates that were “won” in the hours after the candidates left the stage by the campaign that was more adept at getting its narrative into the media.

Follow along with the NPR Politics team’s coverage of tonight’s debate, which starts at 9 p.m. ET, at npr.org and on many NPR member stations.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Live! From New York! It’s Monday Night! And Possibly The Most-Watched Debate Sunday, Sep 25 2016 

More than 100 million people are expected to watch the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday night, potentially the largest audience for a campaign event in American history.

Why?

What do we expect from this 90-minute faceoff? A watershed moment in our history? A basis on which to choose between the candidates? Or just a ripping good show?

Obviously, many of us hope to get all three.

[The debate from Hofstra University in Hempstead N.Y. will be broadcast live on NPR beginning at 9 p.m. ET with Robert Siegel as host of the special coverage.]

The 2016 campaign has already been remarkable in many ways. But the most stunning departure from precedent may well have been the lacerating exchanges among the rivals in the Republican primaries.

The altered mood of those GOP debates stemmed primarily from the high-impact, freewheeling style of Trump, who brought his bruising “reality TV” persona to bear on his biggest stage yet. Previous matches had featured a jab here and a sharp elbow there, but nothing like the roundhouses and haymakers thrown by Trump and his rivals.

Dismissed initially as a political neophyte, the newcomer dominated the debates en route to collecting the most delegates.

The Democratic primary debates also grew heated as that contest became more competitive in the spring, but they never approached the GOP fracas in either personal vitriol or TV ratings. Clinton’s main challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was criticized for taking the issue of her private email server off the table in the first debate. (“People are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”)

But if their internal debates were relatively tame, the Democrats have since matched the GOP in full-throated and pointed attacks. The two national conventions were each devoted largely to denunciations of the November opposition.

Since then, both Trump and Clinton have dismissed each other as unqualified and unfit for the office, a species of political criticism usually assigned to running mates, campaign surrogates and staffers. In this case, the role “attack dog” has also been taken up by the principals themselves.

So on Monday, many people tuning in will expect a flurry of punches by high-volume and highly antagonistic combatants. After all, such an extraordinary campaign seems bound to produce an extraordinary debate. But do not be too surprised if it turns surprisingly serious and even flirts with being staid.

It is entirely possible that Trump and his team will see it in their interest to project the more presidential-looking image the candidate has achieved at some recent events (such as his whirlwind visit to Mexico City). If we see a more sedate Trump, it is likely Clinton will follow suit, rather than seem temperamental or emotional.

On the other hand, Trump seemed to signal quite a different approach on Saturday, sending a Twitter message saying he might bring Gennifer Flowers to the debate. Flowers is the Arkansas woman who held a news conference during the 1992 presidential contest to say she had had a 12-year affair with Bill Clinton.

How Do the Candidates Prepare?

Candidates have traditionally gone on retreat to study for the debates, poring through briefing books prepared by staff. In recent cycles it has become customary for the campaigns to put on “mock debates” so the candidate can practice lines against a stand-in version of the opponent.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton aide, would “play Trump” in practice sessions for the Democrat. The Trump campaign has not announced a corresponding stand-in for Clinton, nor has his campaign acknowledged it is holding mock debates at all.

The campaigns also engage in pre-game spin regarding the relative readiness of their candidate. They each insist that the playing field is not level, but they disagree on the direction of the tilt.

This “expectations game” is the inverse of the bragging and posing boxers do at their weighing-in ceremonies. Campaigns lavish praise on the debating prowess of their opponents – insisting that their own contestant is the underdog.

Thus in the current contest, Trump’s staff and surrogates have cast Clinton as a professional politician with decades of experience and debating practice. Just holding one’s own against her would be terribly difficult for anyone, they say, let alone an outsider such as Trump.

Correspondingly, the Clinton camp has insisted that she is a reserved sort of person who is not inclined to bombast or verbal duels. It is Trump, they say, who has the advantage after years of rehearsal on reality TV shows such as The Celebrity Apprentice. They also argue he proved his extraordinary powers by mowing down all his Republican primary rivals on live TV.

How Much Do Debates Matter to the Election?

Social scientists have produced data suggesting that past debates have not made a major difference to the standing of the candidates, with “post debate bumps” proving minor and temporary. But the popular impression persists that the debates were either a turning point in an election (as when John F. Kennedy outshone Richard Nixon in 1960) or a tipping point (as when Ronald Reagan’s performance in 1980 seemed presidential enough to win over doubters, just before Election Day).

In any event, the televised debates provide the one most dramatic and telegenic moment of the year after the nominating conventions. They are also usually the only time the major candidates appear together or question each other. And the enormous TV audience lends a sense of do-or-die pressure well beyond any other moment in most campaigns.

If 100 million do indeed watch, one tends to think they will include most of the people who will actually cast ballots this November. The biggest turnout in raw numbers for a U.S. presidential contest was in 2008, when more than 130 million people voted for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Turnout was down slightly in 2012.

Have There Always Been Debates?

President Jimmy Carter, left, and Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan shake hands after debating in the Cleveland Music Hall on Oct. 28, 1980.AP/NPR

In 1964, 1968, and 1972 the League of Women Voters wanted to sponsor debates but the candidates of the major parties did not reach an agreement to debate. In two of these years, 1964 and 1972, the incumbent presidents (Lyndon B. Johnson and Nixon) were cruising to landslide re-elections.

The debates came back in 1976, when incumbent Gerald R. Ford was trailing Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter and saw the debates as part of a comeback strategy. Ford wound up losing by just 2 percentage points, and some believed his awkward description of Poland’s relationship with the Soviet Union (which was still occupying Eastern Europe at the time) caused him to fall short.

In 1980, Reagan was overtaking the incumbent Carter when they had their lone debate, scheduled just a week before the election. Reagan’s confidence and charm were enough to close the sale. They were enough again in 1984 when, after a weak showing in the first debate, Reagan returned to form in the sequel and sailed to a 49-state re-election.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush found himself on stage with not only Bill Clinton, the Democrat, but independent Ross Perot as well. Those two kept up a crossfire on the incumbent, who did not help his case by seeming somewhat detached and even checking his watch.

In 2000, the main stylistic issue involved Democratic nominee Al Gore, whose eye-rolling and audible sighs seemed meant to denigrate his opponent, George W. Bush. But Gore’s behavior proved distracting to many, and Bush himself was unfazed. Bush also surprised many who expected him to suffer by comparison to Gore, a more experienced debater.

Who Actually Runs the Debates?

From 1960 through 1984, the debates were staged by the League of Women Voters, which was regarded as non-partisan. But controversy arose over some of the positions the League had taken on issues such as abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. So in 1987 the two major parties established a Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). Beginning in 1988, the CPD organized each set of debates, negotiating with the TV networks and the campaigns and helping choose the moderators.

The moderator has often been a source of contention, as neither party wishes to have its candidate grilled more harshly or cast in an unfavorable light. For several cycles, the PBS anchor Jim Lehrer was the most frequent choice, viewed as even-handed by both parties. Longtime TV newsmen Tom Brokaw of NBC and Bob Schieffer of CBS have also filled the role, as has Candy Crowley of CNN.

On Monday night, the moderator will be Lester Holt, the anchor of the NBC Nightly News. Holt has not been seen as a controversial or overly-editorial figure, although some eyebrows were raised when Trump said “Lester is a Democrat.” It turns out that Holt has been registered as a Republican in New York for more than a decade.

Were There Debates Before 1960?

The Kennedy-Nixon debates were the first between major party nominees to be televised and are considered the beginning of the modern era of presidential debating. The first was held on Sept. 26, exactly 56 years before the Clinton-Trump meeting. Popular assessments at the time had Nixon winning if you heard the debate on radio, Kennedy prevailing if you saw it on TV.

The most famous antecedent is the legendary series of hours-long matches between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. At the time, the two were running for a Senate seat in Illinois, which Douglas won. Two years later, they squared off for the presidency and Lincoln became the first Republican to occupy the White House.

An attempt to revive that tradition was made in 1948, when New York Gov. Thomas Dewey debated Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen in Oregon, prior to that state’s important Republican primary. The event was probably most important in that it drew an enormous national radio audience, greater in percentage terms than the audience expected for Clinton-Trump.

In 1956, ABC televised a debate between former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson and Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver, rivals for the Democratic party nomination. They faced off in a debate in Florida before the primary there, and wound up being the Democratic Party ticket that fall (losing to incumbent President Dwight Eisenhower).

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

4 Questions Donald Trump Faces Heading Into The First Debate Friday, Sep 23 2016 

On Monday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will face off in their first debate at Hofstra University in New York. In a race this close and with as many as 100 million people watching, the debates present both candidates with chances to seize momentum but potential pitfalls as well.

Here are four things to think about as Donald Trump prepares for the debates. We also looked at four things to watch for Clinton.

1. Can Trump exceed low expectations?

In a year when voters are clearly ready for change and disgusted with the status quo, Trump has the advantage of being the outsider. But he has big deficits with voters who think he doesn’t have the character and temperament to be president.

On Monday, expectations are low for Trump, but he has one major task — convince enough voters that he is a plausible president.

“If Trump can stand on a debate stage for two hours and not lose his temper and come across as as reasonable person, he’ll have a good night,” said Alex Conant, who was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s spokesman during the GOP primaries. “And that’s a lot easier than Clinton’s task — which is to convince people she’s not a liar.”

Democrats fume that Trump is graded on an curve, and there’s no doubt the bar for him is lower than it is for Clinton. As long as he doesn’t say something outrageous that’s racist or sexist, he wins the night.

But there is one area where expectations for Trump are high — people expect him to be aggressive and to dominate the debate the way he did during the primaries when he eviscerated one opponent after another.

2. How does Trump face off against a woman?

This could be a tricky one for Trump. He will be doing something no one else has done before: debating the first female candidate for president. Trump will probably try to avoid any obviously sexist put-downs.

One of the few bad moments Trump had in the GOP primary debates was when he disparaged former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s looks. Trump might also be asked about his recent comment that Clinton doesn’t have a “presidential look” or his repeated questions about her “stamina.”

3. Can Trump debate the same way he did in the primaries?

Trump has acquired a kind of mythic reputation as a debate performer. After all, he dispatched 16 experienced challengers in the Republican primary. And he does have formidable skills honed by years as a reality TV star. He speaks in simple, clear sentences. He has a commanding physical presence and a “huuuge” personality. And he’s shown on occasion (for example, his press conference in Mexico) that he can, in fact, act “presidential.”

In the primary, whenever the debates were about personalities or personal records, he was very comfortable. But when he tried to talk in depth about his own policy proposals, he was out of his depth.

Clinton will be ready to exploit those moments to paint Trump as unprepared for the Oval Office. And Trump has never before debated just one opponent.

4. What happens after the debate?

There are three phases to a debate: pre-game expectation setting, the debate itself and the post-game battle to control the perceptions of who won and who lost.

Trump is already working the refs and creating a narrative in case he doesn’t do well. Just as he’s claimed the only way he can lose the election is if it’s stolen from him, he’s been saying the debates are rigged against him. He claims NBC’s Lester Holt, the first debate’s moderator, is biased.

“Look, it’s a phony system. Lester is a Democrat. They’re all Democrats, Okay? Its a very unfair system,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on Monday.

In fact, Holt, who is an experienced journalist and anchors NBC’s Nightly News, has been a registered Republican since 2003, according to New York state voter registration documents.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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