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Clinton expected to play it safe at final debate

Clinton expected to play it safe at final debate
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE has a simple strategy for Wednesday’s presidential debate: Do no harm. 

Like a football team up by double digits with time running out, Clinton doesn’t want to do anything that would let her opponent, Republican Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE, back into the game. 

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“The strategy is to just get through it,” said a top Democrat close to the Clinton campaign who is familiar with its prep sessions. 

Clinton has a comfortable lead over Trump in national polls just three weeks before Election Day. 

In the battle for 270 Electoral College votes, Clinton is in an even better position. 

Trump either trails her or is running neck-and-neck in every key battleground state, leaving him needing to run the table to defeat her. 

Clinton is signaling confidence. One of her strongest surrogates, first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMinneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' Obamas praise Floyd jury, urge more action: 'We cannot rest' Bush says he doesn't criticize other presidents to avoid risking friendship with Michelle Obama MORE, will give a speech in Phoenix this week as the Democratic nominee looks to make a play for traditionally red Arizona. 

Georgia and Utah, two other states that usually are in the GOP column in presidential elections, are also on the Clinton watchlist. 

Given those realities, campaign aides and allies expect Clinton will aim to stay above the fray in the final debate on Wednesday night. 

Her goal, one longtime confidant said, is to “be presidential and walk the line between disdain and despair at the cesspool that Trump has made of the race."

“Steady and ready,” the confidant added. 

Clinton also wants to give voters a reason to support her as she looks to make her closing arguments. 

Clinton “needs to keep focused on her own vision for America's future, and give people reason to cast a positive vote for her, not just a negative vote against him,” one longtime adviser recommended. 

The Democrat also took a cautious approach at the second debate, which came days after the release of an explosive recording from 2005 in which Trump makes lewd comments about groping and kissing women without consent. 

Trump responded to the video with attacks on former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Obama, Clinton reflect on Mondale's legacy Polls suggest House Democrats will buck midterm curse and add to their ranks MORE. He brought three women who have accused the former president of sexual transgressions to the debate, along with a fourth woman raped as a child who criticized Hillary Clinton’s court-ordered defense of her alleged attacker.

At that debate, some allies felt Clinton’s go-safe approach left her unable to put points on the board. 

At the same time, they were ultimately satisfied with her composure and presence — particularly as she stood before the women making accusations against her husband. And Clinton’s strength in polls appears to have grown, not weakened, in the aftermath of that debate. 

To prepare for the third debate, Clinton has holed up with a small group of advisers for the last three days at a hotel near her Chappaqua, N.Y., home. 

She faces new challenges on Wednesday. 

Trump says he is now “unshackled” and has made it clear he’ll come after Clinton aggressively in Las Vegas and in the final weeks of the campaign. 

Clinton also faces a moderator in Fox News’s Chris Wallace who is widely expected to offer more critical questions than previous moderators, who some conservatives accused of letting the Democrat off the hook. 

Wallace will have plenty of new material. WikiLeaks on a near daily basis has been releasing hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account. 

Separately, the FBI released new material on Monday from its investigation into Clinton’s private email system. The documents open the window for Trump to claim that classified information was mishandled. 

“She should expect to get more questions about email, WikiLeaks and the FBI,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. “I would expect Chris Wallace to spend more time on some of her more sensitive issues."

“And a lot of people feel those questions haven't been asked as much,” he added. 

But Clinton allies say they believe Trump has bigger obstacles to face. 

In the last week, a number of women have come forward with allegations that Trump groped or kissed them without their consent. They offered their stories after Trump, at the second debate, said he had never sexually assaulted a woman. 

Trump has said the stories being told by the women are all false. He also has mocked the physical appearance of at least two of his accusers.

The GOP nominee has also stepped up claims that the election is being rigged against him, another theme Wallace is likely to bring up. 

All of this gives Clinton allies more confidence in their candidate. 

“I think there are a couple of forces working against Trump,” the longtime Clinton adviser said. 

Given her lead, allies say she should go in with the exact same game plan as before. 

“She should keep doing what she’s been doing because it’s been working for her,” Simmons said. “All the information about his life that’s already out there unnerves him more than anything she could do in the debate.”