Tonight's much-anticipated debate between the two presidential candidates – incumbent Republican Donald J. Trump and his challenger, Democrat Joe Biden – could be one for the ages.

Or it could fall flat.

Trump and Biden have been anxious to have at each other for months, and expectations are high on both sides. Trump has racked up a long list of accomplishments during his nearly four years in office. Biden has 47 years in Washington and has also accumulated a track record of accomplishments. Both men would be wise to focus a lot of energy on highlighting their records.

Modern-day debates are anything but. They have become showcases for the candidates to take potshots and shoot zingers at each other. The candidates are coached on how best to respond to questions from moderator Chris Wallace. They will attempt to use their time to raise as much doubt about their opponent as possible and may never actually fully answer Wallace's questions.

Trump has proven to be adept at thinking on his feet and going off-script. He is quick with a comeback or with an unrehearsed zinger. The approach worked for him in 2016 against his Republican challengers and again against Hillary Clinton in the general election. It can also work against him if he is not disciplined.

Biden is charming but is undisciplined when he goes off-script. He can get into real trouble if he goes wandering in the tall grass. He could find himself too prepared and suffer a head explosion halfway through the debate. He doesn't do well with numbers and statistics. He must have his best performance of the campaign tonight.

This debate could be like a WWE smackdown full of water-cooler moments, or it could be a bore if both candidates decide to play it safe. It could be a gamechanger for one or both of these men, or it could be a dud that changes nothing. I'm not sure if either can afford to play it safe at this point.

I can't wait to watch, and I can't wait to talk with you all about it on Wednesday.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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