Journalists work at the media filing center for the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the United States, Oct. 9, 2016. The second presidential debate will kick off in few hours. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
by Matthew Rusling
St. Louis, United States, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The recent release of tapes containing sexist comments by U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may turn out to be what kills him in Sunday's presidential debate, experts said.
The tapes, from an interview several years back with radio shock jock Howard Stern, as well as off-camera moments years ago on the set of TV show Access Hollywood, have caused shockwaves in the U.S. media and outrage among Trump's critics.
The backlash of the Trump's remarks that being famous allowed him to "kiss any woman" and about grabbing women' s genitals, has been so severe that high-ranking Republicans are backing away from the brash billionaire. Trump has issued a rare apology and even his wife Melania blasted the comments as "unacceptable and offensive."
"Trump will be playing defense due to his lewd comments about women. Clinton will seek to drive a stake through his heart on that issue and put him away for good," Brookings Institution's Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
Trump will seek to deflect by raising Hillary's husband and former President Bill Clinton's personal issues, but voters will want to see genuine contrition from Trump. Complaining about Bill Clinton will not be sufficient to beat Hillary Clinton, West said.
Former president Clinton had on numerous occasions in his political career allegedly sexually harassed women, and in 1998, while president, he settled a lawsuit out of court in which he had to pay 850,000 U.S. dollars to plaintiff Paula Jones, who he had allegedly sexually harassed. While Trump may try to bring up that issue in the debate, experts said it is likely to fall flat, given the release of the tapes.
"Independent voters are likely to be appalled by Trump's comments and I expect them to swing towards Clinton this week," West said.
Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, echoed those thoughts. "The tape and the fallout will shape this entire debate. The event has shifted from being about whether Trump can do better to the question of whether Trump can even survive," Zelizer told Xinhua.
Trump will try to unleash everything there against the Clintons but the format will check him given that the questions will be coming in, probably, about other kinds of issues, Zelizer said, referring to Sunday's town hall format, in which candidates will take questions from the audience.
Before the release of the tapes, analysts and members of team Trump said that Trump was geared up to hit Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton hard on her alleged corruption during the debate.
Trump was expected to come out with guns blazing, attacking Clinton on receiving millions of dollars to her Clinton Foundation charity in an alleged pay-for-play scheme to give high rolling donors prime access to her while she was secretary of state under U.S. President Barack Obama.
Trump was also ready to hit Clinton hard on the email scandal, in which the former secretary of state used a non-secure, personal email account to conduct business, as well as a server located in her home. Critics said Clinton played hard and fast with U.S. national security.
But instead, Trump will likely spend much of his time on the defensive. Clinton is sure to seize the opportunity to hammer Trump on the tapes, and continue the narrative that Trump is not only a loose cannon, but someone whose crude remarks about women are unacceptable for a potential president.
Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua that Trump is now definitely on defense due to the release of the tapes.
"It has completely overshadowed the scandals of the Clinton Foundation," Mahaffee told Xinhua.
Trump is likely to stick with the strategy of hammering Clinton, but Clinton now has the advantage. And as a savvy politician who knows how to play the game of politics, Clinton will undoubtedly hit Trump with an incessant barrage of jabs and hooks over the tapes. Trump may well find himself playing defense, and that will be a losing game for him.
"Trump's best case scenario is to try to stick to that plan of attacking in terms of Hillary's record and policies while also showing contrition for his remarks and behavior-even as a growing number of Americans think that these statements are unforgivable," Mahaffee said.
Unfortunately for the Trump team, it appears that if he is cornered on this issue, he'll lash out about the past scandals of Bill Clinton, and just when the American people couldn't be more disgusted with this campaign, it'll hit a new low, he added.
Indeed, experts said the tapes will be difficult to defend for Trump, and it will be difficult to change the subject for him without seeming to be dismissive of the issue.
While Trump's base will stick with him, those who are on the fence and previously may have voted for him will be turned off by Trump's outrageous remarks.
"Trump's core base will stick with him. They have remained supporters throughout all the other scandals about comments Trump has made, and Trump will try to turn this scandal....into an 'us versus the 'establishment' moment," Mahaffee said. Enditem