Beleaguered Republican nominee Donald Trump has 90 minutes to save his faltering presidential campaign, US media said today ahead of his encounter with Hillary Clinton in a do or die debate, taking place soon after his obscene remarks about women surfaced.
The second edition of the three presidential debates to take place in St. Louis will cap one of the most extraordinary weekends in American political history, CNN commented and went on to say that Trump will have 90 minutes Sunday night to save his presidential campaign.
Republicans — including vice presidential nominee Mike Pence — are criticising Trump, 70, for his vulgar comments about advances he has made toward women in 2005 that came to light on Friday.
Ahead of the prime-time debate, American media gave an ever-growing list of senators and top Republican officials who want Trump replaced on the ticket. They included former Republican presidential candidate John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Trump insists he won’t leave the race, and he and allies indicate he’ll go on the attack against Clinton.
One thing that is on everyone’s mind is what will Trump say on the tape.
Soon after the “Access Hollywood” tape became public on Friday, Trump released a statement that read, in part: “I apologise if anyone was offended.”
Hours later, he released a video message: “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise,” Trump said.
He made a brief appearance Saturday on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower, and a couple of calls to newspapers vowing to stay in the race. But this will be his first live appearance and one that guarantees follow-up questions.
Although Trump has apologised, he has not yet addressed serious concerns raised by the hot mic video. Most notably, Trump’s suggestion that he made aggressive advances toward women has raised grave new questions about whether he touched women without their consent, CNN reported.
“This is Trump’s chance to convince Americans that he is sincere in his apology and that he can be trusted as commander in chief. If he can do that, as well as score points on his core issues of trade and security, he may be able to survive,” the leading network commented.
Washington Post, which published a video on Friday showing Trump making crude remarks about sexual assault, said the beleaguered candidate was delivering conflicting messages: one of apology, insincere as it seemed to many viewers, and one of defiance. It was not clear that either message could rescue him after the expose.
“Trump’s extraordinary campaign has been guided by his own instincts, and on Friday, his instinct was to hunker down and fight. Trump spent the next 24 hours in New York mostly ensconced in Trump Tower with only his most loyal advisers, steadfastly refusing to accept or recognize the full reality of what was happening outside,” the paper said.
After the first debate, which American media said was won by Hillary Clinton, Trump congratulated himself for refraining from bringing up Bill Clinton’s “indiscretions.”
“I’m really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton,” he had said. When pressed on what he would have said, Trump had told CNN: “Maybe I’ll tell you at the next debate.”
It now appears that Trump may do exactly that at the second debate.
Trump has already given two indications that he is preparing to target the former president — and the Clintons’ marriage — on the debate stage.
Immediately after the “Access Hollywood” video was released, Trump said in a statement: “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close.”
In the video message hours later, Trump capped his curt apology with this: “Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary Clinton has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimated his victims.”
“We will discuss this more in the coming days,” Trump had said.
The strategy of dredging up Clinton’s extramarital affairs, such as those with Monica Lewinsky, enjoys minimal support within the Republican Party, and its leaders are wary of going down this path.
Hillary Clinton has kept a low profile all weekend, staying in New York for debate preparation, and so this will be the first time she responds in person to the Trump tape.
In recent weeks, the Democratic nominee had already adopted highlighting Trump’s past remarks about women as a major strategy, aimed at hammering home the point that Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president.
The Clinton campaign has featured Alicia Machado, for example — a former Miss Universe whom Trump has made disparaging comments about — in online ads, and facilitated Machado sharing her story with the media.
Clinton may be less keen on addressing her husband’s extramarital affairs if Trump decides to go there. Asked last month whether she feels any obligation to object to a spouse’s indiscretions being brought up in the campaign, Clinton simply answered: “No.”
The Trump bombshell Friday came at roughly the same time the Clinton team was dealing with problems of its own — WikiLeaks posted thousands of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, that appear to include excerpts of Clinton’s private speeches to Wall Street companies.
Those excerpts could validate what some of Clinton’s critics have said all along: that the Democratic nominee is out of touch with the middle class.
With all the attention on Trump, the excerpts haven’t gotten much attention. But figure Clinton will have to explain her reasoning for those comments on Sunday.