10 Oct 2016

Trump strikes defiant tone ahead of debate

11:53 am on 10 October 2016

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his team have come out fighting after a storm over vulgar comments he made about women.

Mr Trump is due to meet his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the second presidential debate this afternoon.

Donald Trump speaking at a town hall event in New Hampshire on 6 October.

A poll of Republican voters suggests most believe the party should continue to support Donald Trump despite a recording revealing him bragging about groping women. Photo: AFP

Since a 2005 recording of Mr Trump surfaced on Friday revealing him bragging about groping women, at least 33 senior Republicans - including senators, members of Congress, and state governors - have withdrawn their support for his candidacy.

Mr Trump took to social media to try to squelch any speculation that he could leave the race. "Tremendous support (except for some Republican leadership"). Thank you," Trump wrote on Twitter.

"So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers - and elections - go down!" Trump tweeted, apparently referring to those Republicans who have withdrawn support for his candidacy.

And most Republican voters would appear to support his determination to stay in the race. In the first poll since the release of the tape, by Politico/Morning Consult, some 74 percent of Republican voters believe the party should continue to support him.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump adviser, warned in appearances on US talk shows that at the debate, Mr Trump would not rule out going on the offensive by bringing up her husband Bill Clinton's past infidelities.

The 2005 video showed Mr Trump, then a reality TV star speaking on an open microphone about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman. The video was taped only months after Mr Trump married his third wife, Melania.

Interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr Giuliani said both presidential contenders were flawed but that Mr Trump feels he owes it to his supporters to stay in the race.

"He obviously feels very bad about what he said, he's apologized for it," Mr Giuliani said. "What he'd like to do is move on to the issues that are facing the American people."

Republicans have attacked Hillary Clinton, 68, over what they say is her role in trying to discredit women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct decades ago.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, interviewed on Fox News Sunday, called the Trump remarks captured on video "disgusting," adding, "This is who this guy is."

The pressure on Mr Trump will be intense at the this afternoon's debate at Washington University in St. Louis. Sources told CNN the first questions would be about the uproar.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in their second debate today. Photo: AFP

It is the second of three scheduled presidential debates as the long-running US election contest enters its final weeks.

Trump has survived a string of setbacks during this gruelling campaign and is hoping that he can again recover.

The 2016 elections are about more than the race for the presidency. The video renewed Republican worries that Mr Trump's problems could hurt party efforts to retain majority control of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

"There is full-on panic" about the Senate elections, said a senior Senate Republican aide, who asked not to be identified.

The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, the nation's largest grassroots anti-Trump organization, released a new attack ad that centred on the 2005 video.

Scott Dworkin, the group's senior adviser, said, "We aim to target this ad in competitive House and Senate districts of elected Trump supporters, current or former."

- Reuters / BBC

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs