When A Beauty Queen Dominated US Presidential Campaign

When A Beauty Queen Dominated US Presidential Campaign

Verbal abuse of ex-beauty queen Alicia Machado made headlines during the crucial US presidential debate

Washington:  Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump in their first presidential debate, with a parting-shot zinger about verbal abuse of an ex-beauty queen who dominated the campaign week.

Just five weeks before the US elections, here is a summary of the past several days on the campaign trail:

Hillary 1, Trump 0

A super-prepared Clinton crushed Trump at the first presidential debate, watched by a record 84 million viewers in the United States.

After a solid start, Trump grew increasingly defensive and rambling.

He missed several opportunities to attack Clinton on her vulnerabilities, including her handling of the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, immigration and the border with Mexico.

Trump did manage to land a blow on an issue that has dogged Clinton -- her role as a "status quo" candidate who will bring little, if any, change that the public is pining for.

"You've been doing this for 30 years. Why are you just thinking about these solutions right now?" he said, in one of his more trenchant attacks during the debate.

Perhaps not quite as successful was Trump's rejoinder, when Clinton accused him of not paying taxes.

"That makes me smart," he said -- a remark which helped raise new questions this week about his business and financial dealings.

Clinton during the debate had plenty of success highlighting her opponent's flaws, while using verbal jiu jitsu to repel his attacks.

"I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate," Clinton said, after he criticized her for taking time away from the campaign trail.

"Yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing," Clinton said.

Despite his widely-panned debate performance, Trump insisted he was very satisfied with his appearance.

Still, he almost certainly will prepare better to avoid traps laid by Clinton for their next showdown on October 9.

Democrats' youth problem

Meanwhile, the Democrats have a youth problem, and Clinton knows it.

Eager to boost her numbers among a critical segment of the population that could account for 25 percent of the vote by her own estimate, Clinton campaigned Wednesday on a college campus in New Hampshire.

By her side was ex-rival Bernie Sanders, who garnered broad support from millennials -- the 18-to-34-year olds who form America's largest demographic group -- during his failed bid against Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned at two universities in Pennsylvania and Vice President Joe Biden spoke at another, in an effort to help boost Clinton's numbers with young voters, who are notorious for not showing up to the polls on election day.

"If you don't vote, that's a vote for Trump," President Barack Obama admonished voters during an appearance on the Steve Harvey Morning Show.

"If you vote for a third-party candidate who's got no chance to win, that's a vote for Trump."

Since August, Clinton has lost support among youths, many of whom are instead backing Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Without the support of millennials, who number about 80 million, she could lose several key states.

Obama won four battleground states during his 2012 re-election campaign thanks to the youth vote, his wife recalled Wednesday.

"Without those votes, Barack would have lost those states. He would have lost that election. Period. End of story," she said at La Salle University in Philadelphia.

Trump and 'Miss Piggy'

Alicia Machado became an overnight world celebrity after the debate, when Clinton recalled that Trump once mocked the 1996 Miss Universe as "Miss Piggy" because she gained weight after the contest.

Trump, who at the time owned the pageant, also called her "Miss Housekeeper" because of her Latina heritage.

Most women voters oppose Trump, and Clinton saw in Machado the perfect foil with which to attack the real estate mogul, who also has low rating among Hispanics.

After the debate, Clinton released a video showing the former Venezuelan beauty contestant recalling how Trump insulted and mistreated her after she put on a few pounds.

Machado made multiple media appearances this past week, as Trump continued to publicly berate her.

"She gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem," he said on "Fox & Friends."

"We had a real problem. Not only that, but her attitude, and we had a real problem with her."

The Republican candidate went even further in a pre-dawn Twitter storm Friday, attacking Machado's "disgusting" character and falsely claiming she had appeared in a sex tape.

He also claimed that Clinton had helped Machado gain US citizenship so that she could "use her" as a political weapon against him.

"Using Alicia M in the debate as a paragon of virtue just shows that Crooked Hillary suffers from BAD JUDGEMENT! Hillary was set up by a con," Trump wrote during his Twitter tirade.

Another Johnson gaffe

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential contender, further crippled his longshot White House bid by failing to name a single foreign leader he likes during a town hall-style event.

Johnson -- who has virtually no chance of making it to the White House -- could still prove a thorn in the Democratic nominee's side by siphoning off votes in Colorado and other battleground states.

In a cringe-inducing, minute-long segment, Johnson sat speechless after MSNBC television host Chris Matthews asked him, "Who's your favorite foreign leader?

Johnson's reply? A blank stare.

"Any one of the continents, any country -- name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to. Anybody," Matthews continued, to which Johnson replied sheepishly that he was having "another Aleppo moment."

The reference was to another live TV crash-and-burn episode back in August, when the former New Mexico governor answered "What is Aleppo?" to a question about the Syrian city that is a flashpoint in the brutal civil war.

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