While Donald Trump's attempt to stir the piping hot pre-debate pot with a taunting tweet about having Gennifer Flowers as his guest ultimately proved frivolous, the candidates' guest list is nonetheless an important indication of the issues each campaign is looking to highlight. So it makes perfect sense, then, that among Hillary Clinton's guests was domestic violence survivor Maxine Outerbridge, a single mom whose presence at the first presidential debate could prove incredibly effective for conveying the Clinton campaign's message.
Outerbridge is there to provide a face — and life story — to Clinton's work on the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). According to CNN, Outerbridge has credited the program for helping her get back up on her feet.
In 1996, after a disastrously unsuccessful effort to push for national healthcare insurance — which her newly-elected husband Bill Clinton tasked her with leading — Clinton decided to focus her energy on smaller challenges that could win bipartisan support. One of them included extending health insurance to low-income children. As First Lady, Clinton reached across the political aisle to help create CHIP, which the campaign today credits with providing health coverage to some 8 million children.
It's a claim that fact checkers have zeroed in on — and found to be mostly true. Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, who spearheaded the legislation with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch in 1997, said during the 2007 Democratic primary, "The children's health program wouldn't be in existence today if we didn't have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue."
Clinton's clout on Capitol Hill was evident, even then. "I remember her having a lot of influence — you're getting this done because you know the first lady wants it," Gene Sperling, an advisor of the 2008 Clinton campaign, told the Associated Press.
The Clinton campaign has time and time again pointed to CHIP as evidence of her long record of fighting for women and children. Having Outerbridge as her guest at the debate is a powerful strategic move; a double whammy of emphasizing Clinton's commitment to women's issues as well as a living proof of her successful political record.
And Outerbridge could well serve as extra ammo for Clinton to distinguish herself as the candidate who truly cares about women voters. As for Trump, his elementary deflections against a long, ugly record of sexist behavior and comments will undoubtedly be closely watched by Outerbridge, as well as thousands of women following the debate at home.