Hillary Clinton faces off against Donald Trump on the debate stage for the first time on Monday night, in a crucial prime-time event that could alter the narrative of the presidential election just six weeks out from Election Day.
CNN interviewed Clinton supporters in Orlando Wednesday afternoon, at what is expected to be the Democratic nominee’s last public campaign event before the first debate. We asked what they think Clinton needs to do to outperform Trump, and what her biggest vulnerability might be under the spotlight.
One woman said Clinton should keep her cool if Trump tries to provoke her. Another urged Clinton to stick to what she knows best – policy. Some Clinton supporters expressed concern that Trump will try to hit her on issues like the email controversy and Benghazi.
Here’s a look at their advice for the Democratic nominee.
Pat Fagan, 73, retired county parks and recreation director who lives in Clermont, Florida
What does Clinton need to do at the first debate?
“She needs to continue being herself. I personally think how she handles herself with the public is the only way to go. Getting up there and then calling each other names and so forth – I don’t think that gets you anywhere.”
What vulnerability do you think Clinton has at the debate?
“Personally I don’t really know of any vulnerabilities she has. I think she’s going to win the election by at least 10 points. I think she is going to rip him a new one in the debate.”
Patti Fagan, 60, retired, lives in Clermont, Florida
What advice do you have for Clinton heading into Monday’s debate?
“I would like her to listen to her own heart and not to be afraid of Donald Trump because he’s just a punk. I just wish her well and I know he’s going to … anger her, he’s going to try to antagonize her. I’ve seen him when he debates others and he gets really low and I just hope she remains high.”
What do you think will be Clinton’s biggest vulnerability at the debate?
“Her biggest vulnerability is she overthinks. She’s trying to say everything so perfectly and so correctly that I think some people take that as – they don’t trust her, they feel that it’s forced. … Don’t overthink it because she’s got it right and her instincts are right.”
Mary Sharpe, 73, retired, lives in Lady Lake, Florida
What does Clinton need to do to have a successful first debate?
“He’s a pushover for baiting. I’d love to see her bait him into some crazy discussion. I think his tax returns, get him off on a tangent about his tax returns – I think that’d be fun.”
What do you think will be Clinton’s biggest challenge at the debate?
“I think he is probably going to go for the Benghazi thing that they are trying to keep going. I don’t think he will bring up the Clinton Foundation because now he’s in trouble with his foundation. So I don’t think he’s going to go there.”
Joe Caldwell, 80, Vietnam War veteran from Orlando, Florida
What would you like to see Clinton do at the first debate?
“I would really like to see her (discuss) the health care issue, the (Americans with Disabilities Act), the veterans and social issues – those types of issues because there are so many veterans out there that can’t get the care that they need not because they don’t know where to go but because it’s not available to them and it’s pitiful.”
What do you think will be Clinton’s her biggest vulnerability at the debate?
“I really hate to say this – I do think that the most serious vulnerability is this thing that they keep bringing up that’s history. Like the tapes, like the cell phone issues … that’s history. Let bygones be bygones. Start anew. It’s a new day! She can handle it. Oh yes, she can handle it.”
David Rucker, 70, retired from the Orange County public schools and lives in Orlando, Florida
What do you want to see from Clinton at the debate?
“What I’d like for her to talk about is the police department. I think that needs to get into depth a little bit more to try to get an understanding between the two: the community and the police and sheriff’s department. We need to have that camaraderie and we don’t … There are too many young black males getting killed for no reason at all. I realize that they’re real nervous sometimes when confronting us but there still has to be a better way.”
What do you think is Clinton’s biggest weakness?
“I don’t know if she’s going to have a weakness … I think she’ll come out on top. I’m not worried at all. He’s more of a reactionary guy and he’ll try to follow Hillary and I think she’ll eat him up.”
Brittany Arroyo, 27, works at an engineering company and lives in Melbourne, Florida
What is Clinton’s biggest strength as she head into her first debate against Trump?
“Her biggest strength is her experience and intelligence. Ultimately she knows the most about every political issues especially compared to Donald Trump. Her level of experience just far outweighs almost any other political figure and even if she’s not prepared for a question, she’ll have plenty of knowledge on it.”
What will Clinton’s biggest challenge be at the debate?
“Unfortunately, I hate to say it, but as a woman I’ve seen it. She has to walk this fine line between being cute and likeable but also being tough and wise and intelligent and it’s too hard – you can never win. Even though we’ll be watching and we won’t care if she smiles, I know a lot of Republicans apparently do.”