Sunday night's debate was the culmination of a stunning stretch in the race for the
Answering for his words for the first time, Trump denied that he had ever kissed and grabbed women without their consent. He said repeatedly that his words in 2005 were merely "locker room talk" and paled in comparison to what he called
"She should be ashamed of herself," Trump declared. Ahead of the debate, the businessman met with three women who accused the former president of sexual harassment and even rape, then invited them to sit in the debate hall.
On the debate stage, Clinton did not respond directly to Trump's accusations about her husband or her own role, but was blistering in her condemnation of his predatory comments about women in the tape released Friday.
"I think it's clear to anyone who heard him that it represents exactly who he is," she said, adding that she did not believe Trump had the "fitness to serve" as commander in chief.
Trump continually tried to pivot from his videotape to foreign policy, seemingly suggesting his comments pale in comparison to the actions of the
In the 2005 videotape unearthed Friday, Trump was shown bragging about trying to seduce a married woman, groping and kissing other women against their will and getting away with it because of his fame.
Much of the first 15 minutes of the debate centered around the videotape and Trump's defense of it as "locker room" talk -- and Trump bringing up sexual assault claims against
"I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do," Trump said.
He also claimed there has "never been anybody in the history of politics that's been so abusive to women" as
Clinton and Trump did not shake hands before the debate, which suggested the hostility level was high.
Trump interrupted Clinton multiple times, earning a rebuke from Cooper to let her finish talking. He stood and paced as Clinton spoke and was combative from the start. After moderator
Just moments later, Trump chastised the moderators for not bringing up the email issue and then said "Nice. Three on one," implying a bias in the debate.
But the moderators of this debate seemed to be far more in control than in the first debate or in the vice presidential debate last week.
The interruptions prompted Clinton to exclaim, "I know that you're into big diversions tonight."
Trump backed away from his complete ban on Muslims entering
Clinton responded by saying she "will not let anyone into our country who I think poses a risk to us."
They also clashed over the future of President
Clinton is vowing to fix the Affordable Care Act and Trump is promising to repeal and replace "Obamacare."
Clinton says 20 million more people have health coverage because of the law. She says she wants to "save what works," but the next administration will need to get costs down and provide more help to small businesses. She says if the system is repealed it will be "turned back" to the insurance industry.
Trump says the system is a "disaster" and "will never work." He says it needs to be replaced with a less expensive system that's more flexible for patients regardless of what state they live in.
Trump seems sensitive to his interactions with Clinton. When the moderators asked a question and it was unclear whose turn it was to answer first, Clinton said, "Go ahead, Donald."
Trump replied, "No, I'm a gentleman, Hillary, go ahead." Some in the audience laughed.
Trump also said if elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor to re-examine Clinton's email scandal.
Late in the debate, he boasted about his large social media following. "I'm not unproud of it, to be honest with you," Trump said of his Twitter and Facebook followers.
Practically every presidential debate these days gets billed as the make-or-break one. They usually aren't.
But Sunday night's might be the one.
Friday's bombshell release of audio from 2005 in which Republican real estate mogul
It also comes in the wake of Trump's widely panned performance against Democratic former Secretary of State
Even before Friday's revelation, Trump's campaign was enduring one of the worst two-week stretches in presidential campaign history -- fat-shaming, porn talk, a devastating tax revelation and the forced suspension of fundraising activities by his charitable foundation.
Debates (and their aftermaths) don't usually transform the shape of a race. That one did. Trump went into it almost tied with Clinton in national polling; by Friday, he was more than 4 percentage points down, according to the RealClearPolitics average. Clinton's chance of winning based on FiveThirtyEight.com's state poll analyses went from about 58 percent the day of the debate to almost 80 percent Friday.
Then came the release of the audio from previously un-aired footage of the show Access Hollywood. The reaction was incendiary, with Republican members of
Trump made an unexpected move less than two hours before the debate -- holding a short news conference via Facebook with four women who claim they have been victimized by Bill or
"Actions speak louder than words," said
Also appearing with Trump was
The other two other women appearing with Trump were
It was a week in which Trump, picking up a thread from the first debate, fat-shamed a former beauty queen; falsely alleged she had a sex tape and implored people to view it; alleged with no evidence that Clinton was an unfaithful wife; physically mocked Clinton's near-collapse from a bout of pneumonia; faced a revelation he lost
True, there will be a final opportunity for redemption at the third debate
Friday's leak of what appeared to be excerpts of Clinton's paid speeches and emails from her campaign chairman
As the clock ticked toward the debate, the media hype intensified. For much of Sunday, the
The media center began filling up by
The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales were also on hand, complete with their own official media credentials, and Budweiser as a debate sponsor had a sampling of beer for media and other attendees.
Will he bring up Bill?
At the end of the first debate, Trump congratulated himself on not raising the issue of former President
"There's no adviser around Trump who is recommending this as a good course of action," Republican strategist
By midweek, that warning seemed to have gotten through, with Trump telling the
His first apology "if" anyone was offended said
Some parents were wondering if they should even let their children watch the debate, given the sexual topics that could surface.
Potentially tough format
The town-hall format of Sunday's debate -- with half the questions asked by an audience of undecided voters selected by the Gallup polling organization -- could pose a challenge for both candidates.
"(Trump) is going to have to find a way to bridge questions from average people who are asking for a measure of presidential bearing, plus empathy, while he finds a way to pivot to the points he wants to make (about Clinton)," said Robertson, of UMSL. "That's a tall order."
At the same time, he said, Clinton "seems to be more comfortable talking about policy specifics than about the kinds of things that are in her heart," an approach that works better from behind a lectern than mingling with an audience.
Read our story from earlier Sunday
Presidential debate at
Format: It will be a town hall format in which hosts ask half the questions and members of an audience of undecided voters selected by the
How to watch: No tickets are available. The debate will be broadcast commercial-free on all major networks, except
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The Associated Press and The
Election 2016 from St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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