Donald Trump waged a fight against both the Republican establishment and Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, while the Democratic nominee denounced “scorched earth” tactics by Republicans.
Speaking at an afternoon rally in Ocala, Fla., Trump continued his verbal assault against House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Monday that he would no longer campaign with Trump or defend him. The GOP nominee bragged about his performance in Sunday’s debate and voiced disappointment that Ryan’s reaction to it wasn’t warmer.
“Wouldn’t you think that Paul Ryan would call and say, ‘Good going’?” Trump asked the crowd.
Then, without evidence, he seemed to accuse Ryan and Republicans of a larger conspiracy against him. He vowed to get to the bottom of it.
“There’s a whole deal going on — we’re going to figure it out. I always figure things out. But there’s a whole sinister deal going on,” he said.
At a second rally in Lakeland, Fla., Trump used the debate to insult Clinton’s intelligence.
“I don’t think she’s smart. Look how badly she performed in the last debate. I thought she was terrible,” he said.
In Pueblo, Colo., on Wednesday afternoon, Clinton urged her supporters to head to the polls and not back down against deeply personal attacks by Republicans.
“Americans want to turn out in as large numbers as possible,” Clinton said to applause. “Reject the dark and divisive and hateful campaign that is being run.”
Clinton’s campaign appearances were interrupted two days in a row this week by people shouting while holding or wearing T-shirts that brand her husband, former president Bill Clinton, as a rapist.
The Clinton campaign has directly implicated conservative radio host Alex Jones and his conspiracy-driven website Infowars for urging Clinton opponents to raise the rape allegation — and offering to pay those who get on television.
Jones made such an offer on his Sept. 30 show and referred to longtime Clinton opponent and Republican operative Roger Stone, a Trump ally.
“Another shirt that was designed and licensed from Roger Stone is the Bill Clinton rape shirt,” Jones said. “Looks like the communist-style Obama ‘Hope’ shirt but says ‘Rape.’ ”
“Wear it, get aggressive, start the conversations, get on TV with it,” Jones urged. “Anyone that gets on national TV with the shirt clearly for more than five seconds gets $1,000. Anyone that gets it on air on national TV and gets the words out ‘Bill Clinton is a rapist’ or things along the line with a bullhorn” could get $5,000, he said.
It is not clear whether those protesting last week and this week at events held by Clinton, her husband or other surrogates were directly inspired by that offer or whether anyone has been paid.
Before Sunday night’s debate, Trump held a brief news conference with several women who had accused Bill Clinton of unwanted sexual advances.
In Pueblo, the Democratic nominee contrasted what she calls Trump’s efforts to divide voters and her own plan to govern inclusively.
“We have done our best to stay out of all the meanness,” Clinton said.
“I want you to know, I want to be the president for everyone,” she said. “I am tired of all the division and the barriers. I want to bring people together across party lines, across all the lines that divide us.”
At his rally in Lakeland, Trump continued hitting back against critics who accused him of invading Clinton’s personal space during Sunday’s debate.
“Believe me, the last space that I want to invade is her space,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Trump has escalated his attacks against Clinton in recent days. On Tuesday, he released a TV ad showing Clinton coughing and stumbling during a recent battle with pneumonia. On Wednesday, he released an ad alleging that she “only cares about power, money and herself.”
Republican leaders abandoned Trump in droves after a Washington Post report Friday about a 2005 video in which Trump is heard making vulgar comments about forcing himself on women sexually. He has apologized for the remarks but has also played down his words as merely “locker-room talk,” angering many people.
While many GOP elected officials swiftly voiced outrage with the video and ran from Trump, some have moved back toward him this week.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) tweeted Saturday that it would be “wise for him to step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party’s nominee.” But in a Tuesday radio interview with Lincoln radio affiliate KLIN, Fischer said, “I support the Republican ticket, and it’s a Trump-Pence ticket.”
A top surrogate’s attacks on Clinton also drew scrutiny Wednesday. In Ocala, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani accused Clinton of failing to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, suggesting at one point that she lied about visiting Ground Zero in the aftermath.
“Don’t tell me, if you said that, that you remember September 11, 2001. I remember September 11, 2001,” Giuliani said at the Trump campaign rally. “Yes, you helped to get benefits for the people who were injured one day. But I heard her say she was there that day. I was there that day, I don’t remember seeing Hillary Clinton there.”
While Clinton was not in New York on Sept. 11 — she regularly mentions being in Washington that day — she flew there on Sept. 12, in one of the few airplanes allowed to travel in the aftermath of the attacks. Pictures of Giuliani and Clinton inspecting the destruction together are widely available.
Gearan reported from Pueblo. DelReal reported from Lakeland. James Hohmann contributed to this report.