NBC News anchor Lester Holt was announced as the moderator for the first United States presidential debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton by the Commission on Presidential Debates Friday.
Given the contentious and often salacious tone of the 2016 presidential race, Holt, 57, will likely serve as both moderator and ringmaster as the loquacious Trump and former secretary of state Clinton meet for the first time. The first debate will be held on Monday, Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in New York’s Long Island.
The commission, a non-partisan non-profit that has sponsored each of the debates since 1988, also named ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper moderators for the second debate, and Fox News’ Chris Wallace for the third. CBS News’ Elaine Quijano will handle the sole vice president showdown between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence.
Holt, along with the rest of the field, is a first-time presidential moderator, according to The New York Times. The 57-year-old California native began his career with WCBS-TV in New York in the early 1980s and gradually made his way to MSNBC and then NBC News in the early 2000s.
Television viewers may best remember Holt for his work on NBC’s “Dateline” and for replacing disgraced anchor Brian Williams on “NBC Nightly News” last year.
Trump and Clinton, since securing their party’s nominations this summer, have each waged a very public and vitriol-laden sniping campaign that could lead to a highly contentious first debate, one that could even help Trump improve poll numbers that have actually gained steam in the last two weeks.
According to the latest numbers from RealClearPolitics head-to-head polling, Trump was down by as many as eight points to Clinton in the middle of last month. But on Thursday new data showed Clinton’s lead had diminished to 4.6 points, Business Insider reported. Recent polls from Fox News and Reuters, which widened the field to include Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, indicated Trump was down only two points.
With such a close race, and many voters showing such a strong dislike for both candidates, the debates could represent a critical opportunity for both Clinton and Trump. A joint poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News showed 56 percent of Americans have an “unfavorable impression” of Clinton, the worst mark of her political career, and 63 percent feel the same way about Trump.