Clinton Mum On Trump's Lewd Remarks About Women Ahead Of Sunday's Debate Hillary Clinton has yet to respond to a video showing Donald Trump making lewd comments about women. The two candidates will meet on the debate stage Sunday night for the second presidential debate.
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Clinton Mum On Trump's Lewd Remarks About Women Ahead Of Sunday's Debate

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Clinton Mum On Trump's Lewd Remarks About Women Ahead Of Sunday's Debate

Clinton Mum On Trump's Lewd Remarks About Women Ahead Of Sunday's Debate

Clinton Mum On Trump's Lewd Remarks About Women Ahead Of Sunday's Debate

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/497256633/497256634" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Hillary Clinton has yet to respond to a video showing Donald Trump making lewd comments about women. The two candidates will meet on the debate stage Sunday night for the second presidential debate.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It has been an extraordinary 48 hours in an already extraordinary presidential campaign. Late Friday, a 2005 tape surfaced of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, talking about women in vulgar and sexually aggressive terms. Republican leaders started breaking away from him in droves, plunging his party into chaos with only 30 days left before the election. And did we mention there's a presidential debate tonight? NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson is on the line now to talk through it all.

Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Where does the GOP stand on Trump this morning?

LIASSON: Right now, more than two dozen elected Republicans are calling on Trump to step aside, including two Senate candidates from battleground states, Darryl Glenn from Colorado and Joe Heck of Nevada. There are Republicans who are saying they will no longer vote for him, but most Republicans are condemning his remarks without unendorsing Trump. And House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been twisting himself into knots about Trump for months, said he was sickened by the audiotape, but he has not withdrawn his support. And at a Ryan rally in Wisconsin yesterday where Trump was supposed to attend but didn't come, Ryan got heckled by Trump supporters. And in another sign of how deep the split is inside the GOP, there's a new poll out today by Morning Consult - it's been taken since the audiotape came out. Three-quarters of Republican voters think the party should continue to stand by Trump.

MARTIN: But this is different. Why? I mean, we've heard Donald Trump make incendiary remarks for months. We've heard him disparage women before. How is this different?

LIASSON: That's a really good question. This is different in degree but not in kind. It's cruder and lewder, but there have been so many other offensive, denigrating comments that he's made. This does seem to be a tipping point. It crossed so many lines. He's bragging about sexual assault, about grabbing women's genitals, about how when you're a star, he says, you can do anything with women - talk about a rigged system.

But ironically, this tape, which might be the undoing of Donald Trump, came in a conversation with a relative of Jeb Bush's. You know, Billy Bush, who's the host of "Access Hollywood," who's on that tape with Trump, is a cousin of Jeb Bush's. So you have to wonder - why, during the primaries, the Jeb Bush oppo research people didn't just pick up the phone and called Jeb's cousin?

MARTIN: So if there were conversations happening about how to replace Donald Trump on the ticket - I mean, is that even possible at this point?

LIASSON: It's very hard, almost impossible, according to election lawyers that NPR has talked to. The rules say you can get a candidate off the ballot in cases of death, incapacitation or declination, meaning he would voluntarily step down. And, as you said, Donald Trump has said he has no intention of dropping out. He said, the media and the establishment want him to but he will never abandon his supporters. And don't forget - voting has already begun in more than 10 states.

MARTIN: Yeah. So this story consumed a lot of attention over the past few hours. But there was a revelation on the Clinton side, too, this release of emails by WikiLeaks. What did we learn from that?

LIASSON: We learned - by the way, these are hacked emails of John Podesta, her campaign chairman's email account. This came on the same day that the administration formally accused Russian security agencies of authorizing the hacking of Democratic Party officials in order to affect the U.S. elections and hurt Hillary Clinton. In these alleged excerpts of her private speeches to Wall Street banks, her paid speeches, she talks about how she's for free trade and open borders. She's sympathetic to bankers. And these tapes are - these excerpts are problematic. You can see why she didn't want them released during the primaries when she was battling Bernie Sanders. This really underscores her weaknesses with honesty and trustworthiness. It could hurt her with young people, with Sanders supporters, blue-collar Democrats. And she will certainly be asked about this tonight.

MARTIN: So just briefly, Mara, let's think about tonight - lots of people going to watch because the stakes are really high. What are you going to be looking for?

LIASSON: This is a very tricky format. It's a town hall debate. Ordinary people, in addition to the moderators, will be asking questions. And that makes it harder for the candidates to attack each other when an ordinary voter is asking you to talk about how you will make their lives better. So I'm watching to see how both candidates navigate this format.

MARTIN: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you.

MARTIN: As we mentioned, the second presidential debate is tonight. Our colleague Michel Martin will walk through the dramatic events of the last 48 hours in the run-up to the debate. That special will air tonight on many NPR stations from 8 to 9 Eastern Time.

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5 Questions That Now Loom Over Tonight's Debate

Students stand in on the stage as preparations are made for the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis. John Locher/AP hide caption

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John Locher/AP

Students stand in on the stage as preparations are made for the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis.

John Locher/AP

It's hard to be any more gobsmacked about the state of the presidential race right now, after a video of Donald Trump making vulgar comments about women surfaced Friday, prompting more than 30 prominent Republicans to call for him to step aside as the nominee. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is also in headlines for a WikiLeaks email dump that included alleged excerpts of her speeches to Wall Street banks.

But there is a debate Sunday night, so its time to pick our jaws off the floor and contemplate 5 things we'll be watching:

1. How will Donald Trump deal with the growing firestorm in his own party over his latest lewd(est) comments?

This is the big question of the night. Trump, as usual, has given conflicting clues. In a video statement posted on Facebook, he said he was sorry ("I said it. I was wrong. I apologize") but also pivoted to an attack on Bill and Hillary Clinton saying he abused women and she intimidated Bill's accusers. Later, he retweeted messages from Juanita Broaddrick, who claims Bill Clinton raped her.

So what does Trump prioritize: contrition or defiance?

Trump tweeted: "The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA"

Mike Pence, in an extraordinary show of disloyalty for a vice presidential candidate, briefly jumped off the tightrope he's been walking for weeks and issued Trump an ultimatum for the debate.

Pence said he and his family were "offended" and said "we look forward to the opportunity he has to show what's in his heart (tonight)".

Something else might be going through Trump's mind.

The list of Republicans calling on Trump to step aside is growing, but the number is still tiny compared to the GOP leaders who prefer to condemn Trump's words while maintaining their support. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, said he was "sickened" by Trump's comments about grabbing women's genitals but he has not un-endorsed or called for him to step aside as the nominee.

Ryan was heckled by Trump supporters at a campaign event in Wisconsin Saturday, which gives you an idea of how deep the split is inside the GOP. Trump's die-hard supporters are still the majority of the GOP base.

2. How will Clinton deal with WikiLeaks?

The administration believes Russian security agencies authorized the hacking of Democratic party officials emails in order to influence the U.S. elections (and hurt Clinton).

WikiLeaks posted emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta — including ones from his gmail account that contain excerpts allegedly from Clinton's paid speeches to Wall Street banks.

In them she says she's for free trade and open borders and shows some sympathy for Wall Street bankers.

They represent views that she subsequently moved away from as the campaign progressed, but you can see why she chose not to release the transcripts during her primary battle with Bernie Sanders .The hacked emails could hurt her with Sanders supporters, (although Sanders himself has dismissed them) younger voters ,and blue-collar Democrats.

If there is a contest for the October Surprise prize, Trump's hot mic probably beats WikiLeaks.

Still, tonight Clinton will need to come up with a good explanation for why she said those things to a private room filled with Wall Street bankers.

3. Which candidate will do better in the town hall format?

The debate format is unusual and presents lots of pitfalls for both candidates.

There are two moderators (ABC's Martha Raddatz and CNN's Anderson Cooper), but half the questions will come from ordinary voters.

That makes the town hall debate format tricky.

It's harder to attack your opponent in a room full of real people who want you to tell them how you will make their lives better. And any question from a voter has the presumption of validity — making it hard to ignore or to pivot away to boilerplate speech chunks or talking points (a favorite tactic of presidential candidates).

But both campaigns claim this is a great format for their candidate.

Trump has spent more hours in front of a T.V. camera than any Republican presidential candidate other than Ronald Reagan. Even so, Trump's "practice town hall" in Sandown, N.H. on Thursday night did not show that Trump has learned how to connect with people the way a town hall format demands.

The audience was handpicked supporters, the questions were vetted, friendly and read from notecards by the moderator.

The Clinton campaign says the town hall format is a good one for Hillary Clinton since she prefers small listening sessions and roundtables with small businesspeople or working moms over big set piece speeches at rallies.

But most of the questions she gets in those forums are friendly softballs.

Clinton has been preparing diligently — as usual — for this debate. She presumably is working on better answers to questions about her emails, the WikiLeaks revelations and the line that was the most effective for Trump in the first debate — that he represents change and she is the staus quo.

4. Who will win, and what does that even mean?

Winning means different things for Clinton and Trump.

Trump has a monumental task. Even before the Access Hollywood hot mic audio was leaked, he was in a hole — a hole that he dug and kept digging for himself because of his poor performance in the first debate, his subsequent feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and the story about his $916 million dollar business loss/tax deduction.

So tonight Trump needs a performance so unexpectedly good that it will reverse that downward spiral.

Clinton, on the other hand, comes into the second debate with a small but growing lead in the polls. She needs to connect with voters and show them she's not the dishonest, unlikeable person they think she is. But most of all, her goal is to not screw up.

5. What will voters want the two candidates to talk about?

A large number of issues have simply been absent from the conversation this campaign — such as health care, energy, job creation and economic growth.

Will voters tonight ask for specifics on any of these topics, or are they happy to watch another chapter in the food fight that campaign 2016 has become?

The debate will begin at 9 p.m. ET. You can listen to special coverage from NPR on your local station or watch at NPR.org.