In another tumultuous day in the US presidential campaign, Donald Trump raised new questions about whether he would accept the election result, less than 12 hours after he used yesterday’s final TV debate to declare he would keep the country in suspense over whether he would accept the outcome.
And a 10th woman accused Trump of unwanted sexual contact. Karena Virginia claims he groped her breast and made sexual comments toward her at a random encounter outside the 1998 US Open tennis tournament in New York. The two had never previously met, she said.
His campaign responded by describing her as a “discredited political operative” taking part in “another coordinated, publicity seeking attack with the Clinton campaign, will stop at nothing to smear Mr. Trump. Give me a break.”
At today’s rally in Delaware, Ohio, Trump said first: “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election,” before pausing and then adding to cheers: “If I win.”
Later he told the crowd: “Of course I would accept a clear election result, but I would reserve my right to contend or file a legal challenge, in the case of a questionable result.”
Trump claimed Hillary Clinton would “do anything, including voter fraud” to win.
His refusal to endorse the results of the forthcoming election, unheard-of in modern American history, ensured the main talking-point after yesterday’s debate was whether Trump had a suitable temperament for the White House.
With less than three weeks until polling day, the debate in Las Vegas was the last time the two candidates will appear together.
The ill-feeling between them was clear – once again, they did not shake hands – and in some heated exchanges, with Clinton accusing Trump of being a “a puppet” of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Trump initially appeared more restrained than in the two previous debates, arguing forcefully with Clinton over abortion, gun rights and immigration, but Clinton needled him until he reverted to type.
Looking increasingly irritable, he locked horns with the unflappable Fox News moderator, Chris Wallace, and repeatedly cut off his Democratic rival – once interrupting her mid-sentence with the line: “Such a nasty woman.”
Clinton, who in any other election year would be fighting for her political survival in the face of her own scandals, including WikiLeaks’ disclosure of hacked campaign emails, has a six-point lead in an average of national polls. More importantly, she also has an edge in almost all the battleground states needed to win the White House.
Clinton, who has become practiced at provoking and baiting Trump, laid a trap he walked straight into. “Every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is is rigged against him,” said Clinton, adding that he has, at various times, accused the FBI, the Republican primary process and the judicial system of being corrupt.
“There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV programme three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.”
“Should have gotten it!” Trump interjected.
The audience giggled then, and sniggered later when Trump insisted: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do, nobody.”
Asked about the nine women who have come forward to accuse him of sexually predatory behaviour, which he bragged about in a 2005 video leaked three weeks ago, Trump insisted they were all either seeking “10 minutes of fame” or had been somehow orchestrated by Clinton’s campaign.