Republican candidate Donald Trump set off a firestorm on the U.S presidential campaign on Wednesday by refusing to commit himself to honour the outcome of the election. "I will keep you in suspense," Mr. Trump said when pressed for a firm commitment that he would accept the results of the November 8 polls, during his third and final presidential debate with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
"I'll look at it at the time," Mr. Trump said at the beginning of the discussion on the topic, which was necessitated by his repeated statements in recent weeks that the election is being stolen from him and the American people. “And I, for one, am appalled that somebody who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position,” Ms. Clinton said.
Mr. Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on several TV shows on Thursday morning, explaining that he will accept the results as long there is no widespread voter fraud, but the candidate himself did not offer any further explanation of his unusual – and unprecedented – position. He put out several tweets after the debate, quoting online polls that had him winning, but there was nothing on his non-committal answer about honouring the verdict. This issue has eclipsed all the other issues that figured in the 90-minute debate.
According to opinion polls, the Republican’s chances of winning the election are increasingly remote and he may not have done much to better his dismal approval ratings among a key constituency– women. While Ms. Clinton – who could be the first woman to occupy the White House if elected – fine-tuned to perfection her messaging to women, Mr. Trump appears to have shot himself in the foot. “Such a nasty woman,” he said about Ms. Clinton during the debate, triggering an instant backlash on the social media. Mr. Trump’s graphic description of late-term abortions while criticising Ms. Clinton’s position on the issue may have pleased the conservative constituency but is likely to have repelled more women away from him.
Terming his argument “scare rhetoric,” she responded: “You should meet with some of the women….This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make. And I do not believe the government should be making it,” she said.
Mr. Trump, who was questioned on the sexual assault charges leveled against him by nine women since the second presidential debate, dismissed it as a conspiracy of the Clinton campaign. “These women….I think they want either fame or her campaign did it,” he said pointing to Ms. Clinton. Mr. Trump didn’t help himself by interrupting moderator Chris Wallace who appeared willing to question Ms. Clinton on her role in defending her husband Bill Clinton against allegations of sexual assault. As Mr. Trump tried to interrupt, Ms. Clinton delivered some heavy blows, sidestepping the question about her husband. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. …So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That’s who Donald is.”
The candidates had heated arguments over trade and immigration – two of the most contentious issues of this election. Ms. Clinton said her comprehensive immigration reform would be sympathetic to the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S who have four million children born in the U.S and hence, citizens. Mr. Trump said he would have the “really bad” people deported first and think about the rest later.
Ms. Clinton managed to skirt what could have been a dangerous terrain for her – her support for “open borders and open trade” made a before a closed audience and disclosed by Wikileaks recently. Evading the question, Ms. Clinton launched an attack on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who she said was engineering the Wikileaks disclosures to help Mr. Trump.
“You are very clearly quoting from WikiLeaks,” Ms. Clinton told the moderator. “What is really important about WikiLeaks is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans…,” she said. Mr. Trump who has not accepted the Obama administration’s position that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party’s computer network said it could be any one. “It could be Russia, it could be China.” Ms. Clinton said the Republican candidate was trying to, “break up NATO,” to please Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump reiterated the point that he would like to have a good relationship with Mr. Putin to fight the Islamic State. Both candidates clashed over Mr. Putin again while discussing West Asia. “She doesn't like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way,” Mr. Trump said. Mr. Trump said Ms. Clinton’s policies have destabilised the region and made Mr. Putin the most powerful influence in the region. At one point Ms. Clinton alluded that Mr. Trump could be a puppet of Mr. Putin. “You’re the puppet,” Mr. Trump replied.
Ms. Clinton made her most emphatic denunciation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a key legacy of President Barack Obama, on Wednesday. “When I saw the final agreement for TPP, I said I was against it. It didn’t meet my test. I’ve had the same test. Does it create jobs, raise incomes, and further our national security? I’m against it now. I’ll be against it after the election. I’ll be against it when I’m president,” she said, when Mr. Trump attacked her for changing her position on the deal. Ms. Clinton was earlier a supporter of the deal.
The Democratic candidate sought to turn the table on Mr. Trump on trade by alleging that his companies have benefited from trade and put American workers out of job. “There’s only one of us on this stage who’s actually shipped jobs to Mexico, because that’s Donald. He’s shipped jobs to 12 countries, including Mexico….”she said. While Mr. Trump promised to renegotiate all existing trade deals, Ms. Clinton said she would appoint a trade prosecutor to ensure that the deals are implanted fairly.