The Note: Debate Expectations -- Final Round

VIDEO: What to Watch at the Final Presidential DebatePlayABCNews.com
WATCH What to Watch at the Final Clinton-Trump Debate

NOTABLES

--5 STORYLINES TO WATCH: Tonight marks something that political reporters, campaign aides and much of the American public have been looking forward to for months, if not more than a year: the closing showdown of the 2016 presidential race. The third and final presidential debate should be the last time that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump directly address each other ahead of the election on Nov. 8. After they leave the stage tonight, they’re officially off on their own sprints to the finish, focused on separate campaign events designed to boost their support in the last 20 days of the race. Here are five story lines to keep in mind while watching the nominees during the debate, courtesy of ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY: http://abcn.ws/2dn4yQv

--ELECTION OFFICIALS DISPUTE TRUMP’S CLAIMS OF ‘RIGGED’ ELECTION: With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, Donald Trump has claimed repeatedly on the campaign trail that the election is being "rigged," tweeting on Monday specifically about "large scale voter fraud" being a problem. ABC News reached out to the top election official in all 50 states to find out if they agree. Of the 26 state officials who immediately responded, all maintained that the presidential election has not and will not be rigged in their state. ABC’s LAUREN PEARLE has more: http://abcn.ws/2dyU1QV

--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Could it be that there’s actually more pressure on Hillary Clinton at the final debate than on Donald Trump? Yes, Trump needs something dramatic to redirect a race that’s careening away from him. That will leave him prosecuting his case against Clinton, with some of the usual stunts, and at least one highly unusual one (inviting President Obama’s half-brother?). Clinton needs to answer that, perhaps more aggressively than at the second debate, where she seemed content to watch Trump’s implosion from some distance away. But Clinton’s challenge Wednesday night in Las Vegas is different, at least so far as the debate has bearing on Nov. 9 as well as Nov. 8. Clinton is now less than three weeks away from being elected president, barring a stunning collapse. Acting like that means not just rebutting and attacking Trump but going broad, reminding voters of her promise, not just her opponent’s weaknesses. There’s an opportunity if not an urgency for her to use the final presidential debate to appear downright presidential.

 

EXCLUSIVE: RUBIO: I WON'T TALK ABOUT WIKILEAKS, AND NEITHER SHOULD DONALD TRUMP. Sen. Marco Rubio tells ABC News Republicans are making a mistake by jumping on allegedly hacked emails released by Wikileaks to criticize Hillary Clinton. In fact, he says he won’t talk about the hacked emails at all. "As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process and I will not indulge it,” Rubio tells ABC news. "Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks: Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us." Rubio's stand puts him directly at odds with Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, which have been relentlessly hammering Hillary Clinton and her campaign over the contents of the hacked emails. More from ABC’s JONATHAN KARL and BEN SIEGEL: http://abcn.ws/2dNU0Go

 

DEBATE PREP -- OBAMA’S HALF-BROTHER WILL BE TRUMP’S DEBATE GUEST. As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton prepare to spar during the third and final presidential debate, Trump has continued his tradition of inviting controversial guests. As an attack on the sitting president, the campaign has invited the half-brother of President Barack Obama, Malik, to attend the debate as Trump's guest, ABC’s JOHN SANTUCCI and CANDACE SMITH report. Malik Obama, a native Kenyan, has been an outspoken critic of Clinton and said that his support is with Trump. http://abcn.ws/2eqMa5q

 

YESTERDAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI

OBAMA TELLS TRUMP TO 'STOP WHINING' ABOUT ELECTION RIGGING. President Obama criticized Donald Trump yesterday for suggesting the presidential election will be rigged. "I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place.” the president said during a joint news conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. "If you start whining before the game's even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job," Obama said. ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ has more: http://abcn.ws/2dxZ2ZQ

PENCE CALLS SUSPECTED FIREBOMBING AT NC GOP OFFICE 'ACT OF POLITICAL TERRORISM.' Mike Pence toured the site of an apparent arson attack and graffiti vandalism at a county Republican Party headquarters in North Carolina today, calling it "an act of political terrorism." "An attack on our political system is an attack on us all," the Republican vice-presidential candidate told reporters after touring the inside of the torched office, writes ABC’s INES DE LA CUETARA and EMILY SHAPIRO. "Everyone ... Republicans, Democrats or independents, universally condemn this attack," he said. "And we would urge anyone that might have information who perpetrated this attack to come forward and share that information with the proper authorities.” http://abcn.ws/2eNYdxQ

CLINTON CAMPAIGN SORTED POTENTIAL VP PICKS INTO 'FOOD GROUPS' BY RACE AND GENDER, EMAIL SHOWS. Hillary Clinton campaign officials grouped potential vice presidential running mates by race, ethnicity and gender, according to a recently leaked email, further suggesting the degree to which her run for the White House appeared to be scripted, notes ABC’s MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN. Campaign chairman John Podesta — whose hacked emails have been published in regular installments by WikiLeaks, sent the March 17 email to Clinton shortly after she won a slate of primaries in Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Florida, bolstering her chances for winning the Democratic nomination. http://abcn.ws/2eesF2k

6 PEOPLE COME FORWARD TO BACK UP WRITER’S CLAIM OF ALLEGED TRUMP ASSAULT. People has published a follow-up to its story last week detailing an alleged incident in which Donald Trump is accused of pushing writer Natasha Stoynoff against a wall and forcibly kissing her while she was at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida interviewing him and his then-pregnant wife, Melania Trump, for a feature story in 2005. Donald Trump has vehemently denied Stoynoff's allegations from her first-person account, saying the alleged incident "never happened" and at a political rally calling her a "liar.” Today People published a new piece quoting six individuals who said Stoynoff told them about the alleged incident shortly after it allegedly occurred, ABC’s JULIA JACOBO and JAMES HILL note. http://abcn.ws/2dpetAf

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@davidplouffe: The varied set up of debates play an under appreciated role in performance. Sitting for 90 mins next to rival a different decathlon event.

@TheFix: Based on all available data, it's virtually impossible for Trump to do anything in debate tonight to reset the race. Looks too late.

@BDeAngelis82: As part of its #BrewDemocracy theme around this year’s Presidential Debates, @AnheuserBusch commissioned… http://newsroom.anheuser-busch.com/anheuser-busch-brews-democracy-with-new-survey-showing-americans-coming-together-over-a-beer/ …

@matthewjdowd: As i said the other day, if Iran had hacked into trump private communications to undermine our sytstem, what would trump be saying?

@davidsirota: EXCLUSIVE: How Clinton's Wall St financier is working with her aides on plan to shift retirees' savings to Wall St http://bit.ly/2dzNlBW