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Election

5 Things to Watch for at the Final Presidential Debate Tonight

Updated

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are preparing for their third and final face-off on Wednesday night at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

With Election Day looming, Clinton is leading in national polls and her battleground map of opportunities appears to be growing. Trump has spent the past couple weeks doing damage control after a series of sexual assault allegations from multiple women. He’s also ramped up his claims of voter fraud and a rigged election.

However, both Clinton and Trump are continuing to fight for undecided voters and encourage their supporters to go to the polls.

If Wednesday night follows in the footsteps of the previous two debates, the final face-off promises to be unpredictable, combative and nasty. Here’s what to watch for:

1. Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump

At the second presidential debate, the Republican candidate dismissed his 2005 lewd comments to Billy Bush about Nancy O’Dell and Arianne Zucker as “locker room talk.” He also denied ever kissing women or touching their genitals without their permission, claiming, “No, I have not.”

Since then, multiple women have come forward with accusations of sexual assault spanning decades. In a New York Times report published Oct. 12, two women claimed Trump had touched them inappropriately without their permission, while other women shared their similar stories with Palm Beach Post and The Washington Post later the same week.

Former PEOPLE writer Natasha Stoynoff came forward to allege that Trump pushed her against a wall and forcibly kissed her, telling her they were going to have an affair. That encounter allegedly occurred while Stoynoff was covering Trump’s first wedding anniversary with wife Melania in December 2005, the same year the real estate mogul had his now infamous hot mic conversation.

PEOPLE Editor in Chief Jess Cagle released a statement saying PEOPLE stands steadfastly by Stoynoff and her story of being assaulted by Trump in 2005 while on assignment for the magazine.

Trump — who previously claimed that Bill Clinton‘s indiscretions with women were “far worse” than his, as “mine were words and his was action” —  has rejected all of the sexual assault allegations against him as lies and “total fabrication.”

RELATED VIDEO: Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Assault

2. Clinton’s WikiLeaks Headache

The final weeks of the campaign have presented controversies for Clinton as well. In WikiLeaks’ latest email dump, the website rolled out more than 12,000 internal emails obtained by hackers from the private account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Over the weekend, WikiLeaks released what appeared to be transcripts from paid speeches Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs employees in 2013. Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street heavyweights have come under scrutiny throughout her presidential campaign, with her primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders criticizing her for accepting around $225,000 per speech and repeatedly calling on her to release the transcripts.

The Clinton campaign has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of any of the transcripts released by WikiLeaks. Podesta and Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, questioned if the documents had been altered and accused Russia of involvement in the hack.

The emails also revealed that Clinton may have received advance notice on a CNN Town Hall question in March, and that Doug Band, a former top advisor to Bill Clinton, called Chelsea Clinton a “spoiled brat” in a 2011 email.

Trump seized on the email controversy in the second debate, telling Clinton she would “be in jail” if he was the president.

“I didn’t think I’d say this but I’m going to say it and I hate to say it, but if I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception, there has never been anything like it,” Trump said.

3. The Candidates (Even Trump) Are Coming Fully Prepared

Both presidential hopefuls touched down at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Clinton’s “Stronger Together” jet and Trump Force One parked about 150 yards from each other on the tarmac, with the Republican nominee’s large plane dominating his opponent’s in size.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

Trump canceled a Las Vegas rally scheduled earlier on Wednesday, opting instead to stay in at his Las Vegas hotel, the Trump International, to prepare for the night’s showdown.

Clinton has been holed up for several days preparing for the third debate, something her opponent mocked her for during a Tuesday rally in Grand Junction, Colorado.

“You know what the debate prep is? It’s resting. It’s lying down, going to sleep,” Trump declared.

“Debate prep,” he said. “Sort of funny. She’s been doing this for 30 years. Now she has to do debate prep for five days.”

4. Both Candidates Have Invited Important Guests Meant to Stun

Both candidates are looking to psyche their opponent out by bringing special guests to be part of the audience.

Clinton is bringing with her to the debate two well-known billionaires in her corner: Meg Whitman, the Hewlett-Packard CEO and former Republican California gubernatorial candidate; and Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks who likes to needle Trump by questioning his net worth and whether he really is in the billionaires’ club.

Trump will have in the audience his friend, singer Wayne Newton (this is Vegas, after all), and Pat Smith, whose son Sean was killed in Benghazi and who, in her speech at the Republican National Convention, memorably accused Clinton of Sean’s murder.

As first reported by ABC News, Trump also invited one of President Obama’s half-brothers, the Kenyan-born Malik Obama, who backs Trump. That prompted another half-brother, Mark Obama Ndesandjo, to email the Associated Press: “I love my brothers, but no one member represents the Obamas. Others in my family and I do not support my brother Malik’s position on Mr. Trump.”

5. They’re Setting the Tone for the Rest of the Campaign

First thing Wednesday morning, Trump’s campaign blasted out a fundraising email letter with his signature pledging to “end this election with a FIGHT.”

In recent days, Trump has ramped up his claims that the election is rigged against him.

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD,” Trump charged on Twitter Sunday afternoon. He followed up the claim early Monday morning, writing, “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”

Trump is expected to leave Las Vegas immediately after the debate and campaign in must-win Ohio on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is already turning to its closing arguments. Wednesday morning, a new Clinton ad called “A Place for Everyone” went up in the seven battleground states of Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. “America already is great, but we are great because we are good,” Clinton says in the ad. “I want us to heal our country and bring it together.”