Trump points fin­gers af­ter de­bate

GOP hope­ful faults mi­cro­phone, Holt as Clin­ton ze­ros in on his taxes at rally

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Mark Z. Barabak, Noah Bier­man and Michael Fin­negan Mark Barabak re­ported from San Fran­cisco, Noah Bier­man from Washington and Michael Fin­negan from Miami. Chris Mege­rian con­trib­uted from White Plains, N.Y., and Raleigh, N.C.

MIAMI — If Don­ald Trump was con­cerned or con­trite af­ter his widely panned de­bate per­for­mance, there was no sign of it Tues­day as he re­sumed his at­tack on a for­mer Miss Uni­verse and blamed the mod­er­a­tor and a faulty mi­cro­phone for re­peat­edly throw­ing him on the de­fen­sive.

While Hil­lary Clin­ton took a vic­tory lap of sorts, ham­mer­ing her op­po­nent over his un­re­leased tax re­turns, Trump took to Twit­ter and Fox News to de­clare him­self the win­ner and threaten an es­ca­la­tion of at­tacks in the next de­bate.

The GOP nom­i­nee also re­dou­bled his crit­i­cism of for­mer beauty queen Ali­cia Machado, sig­nal­ing he has no plans to mod­ify his strat­egy or tame his pug­na­cious per­son­al­ity — even as some Repub­li­cans called for a new ap­proach.

Clin­ton rat­tled Trump in Mon­day night’s de­bate by cit­ing his crit­i­cism of Machado in the 1990s, when he was ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the Miss Uni­verse pageant.

“She was the win­ner and she gained a mas­sive amount of weight and it was a real prob­lem,” Trump said Tues­day on Fox News. Clin­ton “found the girl and talked about her like she was Mother Teresa, and it wasn’t quite that way.”

Trump said he was Don­ald Trump, who cited a faulty mic af­ter the de­bate, de­clared vic­tory Tues­day, but not ev­ery­one was buy­ing it. tempted to re­spond by bring­ing up Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s mar­i­tal in­fi­delity. “When­she hit meat the end with the women, I was go­ing to hit her with her hus­band’s women,” said Trump, him­self an ad­mit­ted adul­terer. “And I de­cided I shouldn’t do it be­cause her daugh­ter was in the room.”

He may not be as re­strained the next time, Trump said. He and Clin­ton are due to square off Oct. 9 in St. Louis.

Good or bad, a pres­i­den­tial de­bate per­for­mance tends not to change a great num­ber of minds. But crit­i­cal re­views and un­flat­ter­ing news cov­er­age can al­ter the arc of a cam­paign and, with it, the mo­men­tum for or against a can­di­date.

The ac­tions Tues­day of Trump al­lies were telling.

“Ev­ery­one is in agree­ment that he had a great 30 min­utes,” said David Ta­masi, a lob­by­ist who chairs Trump’s Washington, D.C., fi­nance com­mit­tee and at­tended the de­bate at Long Is­land’s Hof­s­tra Univer­sity.

Oth­ers were less im­pressed.

Char­lie Gerow, a GOP strate­gist in Penn­syl­va­nia, said peo­ple both in­side and out­side the Trump cam­paign crit­i­cized his lack of “Let’s play two!” Hil­lary Clin­ton, quot­ing base­ball leg­end Ernie Banks, said Tues­day af­ter her de­bate per­for­mance. prepa­ra­tion — a point of pride head­ing into the de­bate.

“In the ‘spin rooms’ they’re say­ing what they had to say, but qui­etly they were not thrilled,” said Gerow, whose state is vi­tal to Trump’s elec­toral strat­egy.

Machado’s in­ser­tion into the pres­i­den­tial con­test ex­em­pli­fied the can­di­dates’ con­trast­ing ap­proaches to the de­bate: Clin­ton cal­cu­lated and scrupu­lously pre­pared. Trump es­sen­tially wing­ing it.

The Demo­cratic nom­i­nee in­tended to make Trump’s com­ments on the is­sues of weight and per- sonal dig­nity an is­sue with two groups she is tar­get­ing — women and Latino vot­ers. Trump was caught un­awares, ask­ing three times “where did you find t his?” when Clin­ton brought up Machado.

Be­fore the de­bate ended, the Clin­ton cam­paign had pro­duced a bilin­gual video re­count­ing Machado’s ex­pe­ri­ence with Trump, in­clud­ing an eat­ing dis­or­der she said re­sulted from her hu­mil­i­a­tion.

Re­vers­ing his ini­tial as­sess­ment of the mod­er­a­tor, Trump on Tues­day also crit­i­cized NBC’s Lester Holt, sug­gest­ing he un­fairly asked too many harsh ques­tions while leav­ing Clin­ton un­scathed. And Trump claimed there was some­thing wrong with his mi­cro­phone, which am­pli­fied his fre­quent snif­fles.

“My mi­cro­phone was ter­ri­ble,” Trump said in the Fox tele­phone in­ter­view. “I won­der: Was it set up that way on pur­pose?”

By con­trast, Clin­ton was greeted by ap­plaud­ing staffers as she stepped onto her char­tered jet Tues­day for a flight to North Carolina. The good cheer con­tin­ued when re­porters asked about the de­bate.

“Let’s play two!” she said, quot­ing the fa­mously ex­u­ber­ant base­ball leg­end Ernie Banks, as she ex­pressed her ea­ger­ness for the next de­bate.

Later, at a com­mu­nity col­lege rally in Raleigh, Clin­ton picked up on Trump’s re­mark in the de­bate that he was “smart” to avoid pay­ing fed­eral in­come taxes in years he could.

“He ac­tu­ally bragged about gam­ing the sys­tem,” Clin­ton said. “And this is a man who goes around call­ing our mil­i­tary a dis­as­ter. Who goes around crit­i­ciz­ing every in­sti­tu­tion, from health care to ed­u­ca­tion, our vets. But he prob­a­bly hasn’t paid a penny to sup­port our troops, or our vets, or our schools, or our health care sys­tems.”

Trump has not re­leased his tax re­turns.

SPENCER PLATT/GETTY

JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN/GETTY

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