Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took part in their third and final debate Thursday night

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated December 19, 2019 08:39 AM

As the bruising presidential campaign enters its final weeks, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton symbolically showed how personal and negative things have become when the pair declined to acknowledge each other at the beginning of the third and final debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

The nastiness of the campaign put a chill in the air that was palpable even before the candidates took the stage and went straight to their lecterns without a handshake or even a glance at each other.

Before they stepped onto the stage, the Trump family—his wife, Melania, and four eldest children—took their seats in the hall fully five minutes before Bill and Chelsea Clinton arrived to take their seats. The timing was deliberate. Earlier Wednesday, the Clinton campaign acknowledged that they had requested the logistical change so that the two families would not have to greet each other as in past debates when they took their seats at the same time.

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Despite heated questions of Trump’s past sexual misconduct and Clinton’s hacked campaign emails that have dominated the campaign in recent days, moderator Chris Wallace got things off to a cerebral start, asking the candidates about the Supreme Court and the Second Amendment.

They aired their disagreement on guns with striking civility and understatement. After Clinton — dressed all in white — noted of Trump, “the gun lobby is on his side,” he waited his turn before replying: “I don’t know if Hillary was saying it in a sarcastic manner, but I’m very proud to have the endorsement of the NRA.”

The duo got a bit feistier as the debate went on, sparring on issues including immigration and foreign policy. As Trump spoke beyond his allotted time, moderator Chris Wallace chided him to remain on track.

“Mr. Trump, I’m not a potted plant here,” he said. “I do get to ask some questions”