White House candidate Donald Trump desperately needs a strong debate performance against Hillary Clinton on Sunday, with stakes sky-high amid intense scrutiny of his treatment of women, and a damaging video of him boasting that he beds married ones.
His unprecedented, outside-the-establishment presidential bid, and the embattled Republican Party with it, was thrown into disarray by the misogynistic comments, with growing calls from top Republicans for him to step aside.
Even before the latest fallout, Trump was already in need of a moment of political magic to reverse his slide in the polls barely four weeks from Election Day on November 8.
Now his campaign has been rocked by its worst crisis, with the video echoing in voters’ ears, day in and day out. National media have dug up some of his gems of bad and bizarre behavior, including agreeing with an interviewer that his daughter Ivanka was a “piece of ass”. In a 2002 interview with Howard Stern, Trump also said he preferred leaving ladies as they age. “What is it at 35? It’s called check-out time,” Trump quips.
At 6.30 AM IST on Monday, the real estate magnate and the former secretary of state will face off in the second presidential debate at Washington University in St Louis.
The format poses its own difficulties for Trump: half of the questions will be asked by undecided voters.
He will want to build a personal connection with these everyday Americans and show his capacity for empathy, a quality that often has been drowned out in his large, raucous campaign rallies.
Despite an angry backlash threatening to destroy his campaign, over Trump’s remarks boasting about his ability to grope women as he pleases without impunity, he insisted there is “zero chance I’ll quit”.
Late Saturday, the defiant Republican presidential nominee stepped outside of his Trump Tower skyscraper in New York, brandishing his fist to cheers from dozens of supporters. Asked if he was staying in the race, he responded: “100 percent”.
Trump’s own wife Melania said she was offended by her husband’s “unacceptable and offensive” comments, caught on a hot mic just months after the two married in the real estate magnate’s third marriage. But she urged American voters to support him. “I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world,” Melania Trump said in a statement.