Clinton draws record crowd as Trump flounders

PHOTO: AFP

Columbus - An invigorated Hillary Clinton commanded a record crowd of more than 10,000 supporters Monday, leaving Donald Trump floundering as America's top elected Republican all but conceded the White House.

The former secretary of state looking to make history as America's first woman commander-in-chief held an evening rally at Ohio State University ahead of the state's deadline to register to vote Tuesday.

The turnout marked a record for her campaign, with Trump teetering on the precipice after damaging revelations of his lewd comments about women.

The Clinton camp estimated the size of the crowd at 18,500, including 5,000 outside the perimeter.

An AFP reporter said the number at more than 10,000.

The Democrat tried repeatedly to get under her Republican opponent's skin, mocking his television career.

"On the day that I was in the Situation Room watching the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was hosting 'Celebrity Apprentice,'" she said, a day after the two candidates held their second presidential debate watched by an estimated 66.5 million people.

"So if you want to talk about we've been doing the last 30 years: Bring. It. On," added Clinton.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in presidential debates

  • Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton head into a crucial presidential debate on Monday (Oct 10).
  • The debate comes as Mr Trump's White House campaign in chaos over his lewd boasts about groping women.
  • Trump and Clinton clashed in deeply personal terms, accusing each other of mistreating women, and signaling that the final month of the race.
  • The debate was moderated by Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz.
  • A defiant Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed as "locker room talk" a controversy over a video in which he made obscene comments about groping women.
  • He also said, if he won the White House, he would put Hillary Clinton in jail for operating a private email server while U.S. secretary of state.
  • In a contentious town-hall debate, Trump said he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into his Democratic rival’s email use because she had endangered national security while she was Secretary of State.
  • The 90-minute debate got off to a chilly start when the two candidates for the Nov. 8 election greeted each other without the traditional handshake.
  • It quickly turned into an acrimonious discussion of a 2005 video that emerged on Friday in which Trump was heard using vulgar language and talking about groping women without consent.
  • He said he was embarrassed by the video but dismissed it as "locker room talk," and added that President Bill Clinton had done worse to women.
  • Clinton said Trump's comments showed he was unfit for the White House."“He has said the video doesn’t represent who he is but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is," Clinton said.
  • The debate's town hall-style format, with undecided voters posing half the questions and the debate’s two moderators posing the others, allowed the candidates to move freely around the stage and address the questioners directly.
  • Just a few hours before the key debate, Trump convened a meeting of women who accused Mrs Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, of sexual misconduct.
  • The women were Ms Paula Jones, who has accused Mr Clinton of propositioning her and exposing himself; Ms Juanita Broaddrick, who claims he sexually assaulted her; Ms Kathy Shelton, who says Mrs Clinton defended a man who victimised her; and Ms Kathleen Willey, who claims Mr Clinton groped her.
  • None of the accusations was new and Mr Clinton was never charged in any of the cases.
  • All four were at the debate.
  • Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump face off for the first time on Monday (Sept 26) in a high stakes presidential debate that could shift the course of the neck-and-neck 2016 campaign for the White House.
  • The highly anticipated clash between the Democratic former secretary of state and Republican real estate tycoon has generated wide interest nationally and internationally six weeks before the Nov 8 election.
  • Opinion polls show the two candidates in a very tight race, with the latest Reuters/Ipsos polling showing Clinton ahead by 4 percentage points, with 41 per cent of likely voters.
  • The 90-minute debate, set to start at 9 p.m. EDT, could sway undecided and independent voters who have yet to make up their minds as well as voters from both parties who have tuned out the election until now.
  • A second Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday showed half of America's likely voters would rely on the debates to help them make their choice.
  • More than half, 61 per cent, were hoping for a civil debate and were not interested in the bitterness shown on the campaign trail.
  • The size of the television-viewing audience is expected to challenge the record of 80 million Americans who watched 1980's encounter between Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan. Some commentators forecast Super Bowl-sized viewership of about 100 million people.
  • By contrast with the single-party debates held during the Republican and Democratic state nominating contests, the audience will be asked to remain silent and not applaud or respond to the candidates' remarks. The debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments.
  • Clinton won a coin toss and chose to take the first question. She will have two minutes to answer, after which Trump will be given equal time.
  • Trump will then be given the first question at the beginning of the next segment.
  • Markets have tended to see Clinton as the candidate of the status quo, while few are sure what a Trump presidency might mean for US foreign policy, trade and the domestic economy.
  • The volatile Trump, a former reality television star, will have an opportunity to show a depth and steadiness worthy of a commander in chief, while the cautious Clinton, a former US senator and first lady, will have a chance to connect directly with voters who view her as too secretive, strategists said.
  • Trump, a political newcomer who has at times shown more affinity for put-downs than policy, could benefit from lower voter expectations. "There is no question it's a lower bar for Trump," said Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist and now a political scientist at the University of Southern California. "He doesn't have to be brilliant, he just can't be too bombastic."
  • Trump dominated the crowded Republican debates with rapid-fire attacks on his rivals but has no experience in a one-on-one debate setting that requires more prolonged discussion of issues.
  • Clinton has participated in many one-on-one debates on the national stage: with Obama during her unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign and with US Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic nominating race earlier this year.
  • Clinton's camp has done its best to raise the bar for Trump, and in television interviews on Monday both campaigns tried to frame expectations.
  • "What we don't want to have is some sort of double standard where Donald Trump can get the most-improved award, but Hillary Clinton ... is getting judged on the fine points of policy," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told NBC News, calling Trump "an entertainer."
  • The role of moderator Lester Holt of NBC News also came under scrutiny before the debate, with the Clinton campaign and her Democratic supporters urging him to correct Trump if he makes false claims.
  • Trump also has tried to influence Holt and moderators of the other showdowns with Clinton, saying the candidates should be the ones to correct the record.

The Democrat, who has struggled to energize young voters, focused her speech on youth turnout, repeatedly stressing the stakes of the November 8 election, just four weeks away.

"This is turning the clock back not just a few years but centuries.

The only way to rebuke this is to vote," she repeated.

Her rival's candidacy suffered a crippling blow after the 2005 tape was released Friday in which he claimed he could grab women by the crotch with impunity because, as a celebrity, "you can do anything."

The fallout saw a wave of Republican lawmakers abandon him, including some who have urged him to step aside.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted after the video was released but before Sunday's debate, showed Clinton with an 11-point lead in a four-way election - 46 per cent to 35 per cent - and a 14-point lead in a head-to-head matchup.

"I may be limping across that finish line, but we're going to get across," conceded Trump at a rally in Wilkes-Barre in the crunch state of Pennsylvania, for once conceding the scale of the fight before him.

He promised to make six campaign stops a day in the final week before the election, insisting there was still a path to victory and urging his core supporters to come out and vote on November 8.

"We have to make sure this election is stolen from us and not taken away from us," he said.

It was the customary rock-star reception for the Republican nominee at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, which has a maximum capacity of 10,000 and which was close to - but not entirely - full.

"Without the media, Hillary Clinton couldn't be elected dog catcher," said Trump, calling US television network CNN "a disgrace."

CNN host Anderson Cooper was one of the two moderators at Sunday's debate.

At one point, Trump picked up a toddler dressed as a mini-Trump in a grey suit, red tie and white shirt, with blond hair.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds as child dressed as him during a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on October 10, 2016.
Photo: AFP

"Trump," replied the child into the microphone to laughs when the Republican candidate asked whether the boy wanted to go back to his parents or stay with the nominee, before he handed him back over.

But as he promised to bring back jobs, end illegal immigration, renegotiate trade deals and reduce taxes, one man shouted "how are you going to do it?" and turned his head away in disgust.

Faced with the tape scandal, House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow Republican lawmakers that he could no longer "defend" Trump, and that the priority now was maintaining the party's control of Congress.

"You all need to do what's best for you in your district," he said, effectively giving cover to lawmakers considering severing ties with the controversial GOP flagbearer.

Sunday's town hall-style debate was a study in heated personal attacks and a stark reminder of the divisiveness of the 2016 race.

In a room that included Bill Clinton and three women who have accused the former president of sexual misconduct, Trump threatened to jail his rival and lobbed incendiary allegations against her husband.

The 70-year-old real estate mogul apologised for "locker room talk," but accused Bill Clinton of being "abusive to women."

On Monday, Trump doubled down on a pledge to investigate his rival if he wins, despite the suggestion being roundly denounced.

"Special prosecutor here we come," Trump sneered at a rally in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, branding Bill Clinton a "predator."

"If they want to release more tapes... we'll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary doing inappropriate things."

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