COUNCIL BLUFFS: It’s 10 days to America’s next presidential debate, but some of Donald Trump’s most ardent admirers agree: he must do better — focus more on policy, and hit Hillary Clinton harder.
Most mainstream political analysts gave Democrat Clinton, the 68-year-old former first lady, senator and secretary of state the upper hand in this week’s television clash watched by 84 million.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, urged voters to put Hillary Clinton in the White House, warning that sitting out the November 8 election would support Donald Trump, who is “unqualified” for the job.
“If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Trump,” he said of the Republican nominee during a radio inter-view on the Steve Harvey Morning Show that aired Wednesday.
“If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump,” he add-ed, referring to Libertarian contender Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Some supporters of Bernie Sanders — the Vermont senator who mounted a strong but ultimately un-successful challenge to Clinton in the Democratic primary elections — are tempted to support a third-party candidate who would hew to their left-leaning positions more closely.
“My legacy’s on the ballot. You know, all the work we’ve done over the last eight years is on the bal-lot,” Obama said in the interview, trying to mobilize the voters who elected him twice.
“I don’t want anybody to stay home thinking this is any less important than 2008 or 2012,” Obama said, referring to his election as the first African-American US president and his re-election four years later.
On the other hand, even some of Trump’s die-hard fans agreed at a rally in Iowa on Wednesday that he could do better on October 9 in St Louis, Missouri.
“I think he needs more gumption,” said retired waitress Martha Killion, 74, in the town of Council Bluffs, separated by just a river from the neighboring Nebraska.
“I can’t believe that he did not come back and attack her,” she said, recalling the 90-minute slog in which Clinton landed a series of punches on her opponent that left Trump floundering toward the end.
The New York Times reported that campaign advisers, concerned that his focus and objectives had “dissolved” during the debate, plan to drill him on crucial answers, facts and counterattacks for next time.
If Trump showed uncharacteristic restraint on Monday in New York he has since reverted to attack-dog mode, lashing Clinton as “crooked Hillary,” corrupt, “incompetent” and failure.
Trump’s entire campaign has been about dishing insults: not just against the country’s would-be first female commander-in-chief, but about anyone who gets in his way: female journalists, Mexicans, ille-gal immigrants, Muslims and just about every political opponent.
Trump also loves to brag about how rich he is. One question swirling through the campaign now is this: Has he managed to avoid paying income taxes?
Trump, a billionaire who steadfastly refuses to release his tax returns — a four-decade tradition among candidates for the White House — raised eyebrows with an odd remark during Monday’s debate.
A few minutes earlier he had said he filed a financial disclosure statement with the Federal Election Commission in which he reported $694 million in revenue last year.
Filing such forms is mandatory for presidential hopefuls, but they are less detailed than a full-blown tax return.
After the debate Trump seemed to backtrack as he told reporters “of course I pay federal taxes.”
“I hate the way our government spends our money,” he added. “They throw it out of the window.”
First Lady Michelle Obama questioned the Republican candidate’s character while campaigning for Clinton at La Salle University in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
“If a candidate thinks that not paying taxes makes you smart,” she said, “sadly that’s who that candi-date really is.”
At Philadelphia’s Drexel University the day before Vice President Joe Biden took a similar line of attack: “he acknowledged that he didn’t pay taxes… because he’s smart.”
“Tell that to your mothers and fathers who are breaking their neck to send you here. They’re paying taxes,” Biden said. “It angers me. It angers me.”
Neck-and-neck in the national polls, Trump is nonetheless ahead in Iowa on 42.8 percent to 37.8 per-cent for Clinton, according to RealClearPolitics poll average.
Killion, the retired waitress, had simple words of advice for the Manhattan tycoon come October 9.
“Pray hard,” she said. “I think she gets under his skin. I think that prayer would protect him and he would do a good job for our country.”