Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Trump on the defensive after combative debate with Clinton

Published:Wednesday | September 28, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the presidential debate.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate.
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HEMPSTEAD, NY (AP):

Donald Trump blamed the moderator, a bad microphone and anyone but himself Tuesday after he was forced on to the defence by Hillary Clinton's cascade of attacks about his taxes, honesty and character in the first presidential debate.

Trump tried aggressively to pin America's problems on Clinton at Monday night's debate. But Clinton, showing her intensive preparations, went after him as hard or harder, including sharp criticism of his business practices and crude comments about women.

She also attacked his false assertions about President Barack Obama's birthplace, calling it part of a pattern of "racist behaviour". And she repeatedly criticised Trump for breaking tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, declaring, "There's something he's hiding."

Still, Trump insisted on Tuesday he'd got the better of Clinton, awarding her a C-plus while declining to assign himself a grade. Unsurprisingly, Clinton's aides and running mate took to television to argue she'd accomplished precisely what she'd set out to do.

 

CLOSE RACE

 

Both campaigns knew the highly anticipated first debate could mark a turning point six weeks before election day, but it was unclear if either candidate would reap significant gains. Trump and Clinton are locked in an exceedingly close race and competing vigorously to win over undecided voters.

Clinton's preferred tactic - provoking Trump with jabs aimed at rattling him - continued to pay dividends the day after the debate. After brushing off Clinton's claim that he'd once shamed a former Miss Universe winner for her weight, Trump yesterday dug deeper.

"She gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem. We had a real problem," Trump told 'Fox and Friends' about the 1996 winner of the pageant he once owned.

Though he said on Twitter he had "really enjoyed" the debate, he accused moderator Lester Holt of a left-leaning performance and going harder on him than Clinton. He insisted he had "no sniffles" and no allergies despite the #snifflegate speculation that had exploded on social media.

And in one of the more bizarre moments in presidential debate history, he floated the possibility that organisers had intentionally set his "terrible" microphone to a lower volume than Clinton's. Trump said he "didn't want to believe in conspiracy theories" but pushed the theory anyway that it was "set up that way on purpose".