Donald Trump blames others after combative debate with Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump has blamed the moderator, a bad microphone and anyone but himself after facing a barrage of criticism by Hillary Clinton over his taxes, honesty and character in the first US presidential debate.
The Republican nominee tried to defend himself against some of Mrs Clinton's most damaging attacks the next morning, even when the explanations seemed only to further damage his image among the voters he needs to win.
After brushing off her debate claim that he had once shamed a former Miss Universe winner for her weight, Mr Trump dug deeper on Tuesday.
"She gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem. We had a real problem," he told Fox And Friends about the 1996 winner of the pageant he once owned.
Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, was in a celebratory mood, telling reporters on her campaign plane she had a "great, great time" and was "thrilled" by how it went.
She accused Mr Trump of making "demonstrably untrue" claims in the debate and mocked him for floating the possibility that debate organisers had set him up by lowering the volume on his "terrible" microphone so he was quieter than Mrs Clinton.
"Anybody who's complaining about the microphone is not having a good night," she said.
Both campaigns knew the highly anticipated first debate could mark a turning point six weeks before Election Day, but it was unclear whether either candidate would reap significant gains.
Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton are locked in an exceedingly close race and competing vigorously to win over undecided voters.
Although he said on Twitter that he had "really enjoyed" the debate, Mr Trump accused moderator Lester Holt of a left-leaning performance and going harder on him than on Mrs Clinton.
He insisted he had "no sniffles" and no allergies despite the #snifflegate speculation that had exploded on social media.
Still, Mr Trump insisted he had gotten the better of Mrs Clinton, awarding her a C-plus while declining to assign himself a grade.
He also threatened to go harder after her in the next debate and said he had planned to assail Bill Clinton for his "many affairs" and stopped himself solely because daughter Chelsea Clinton had been in the room.
With precious few weeks left to campaign, both candidates returned promptly to the trail, with Mrs Clinton campaigning in North Carolina on Tuesday and Mr Trump in Florida.
Those are among a handful of toss-up states whose winners could help determine the outcome of the election.
Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump are slated to face each other again in St Louis on October 9.
Asked about the possibility Mr Trump could pull out, Mrs Clinton said she would show up regardless.
"If I'm the only person on stage, well, you know, I'm the only person on stage," she said.
Mr Trump's latest comments about Alicia Machado, the 1996 Miss Universe, were striking in that they come just as he is working to broaden his appeal among women.
Aiming to capitalise on his renewed focus on a woman's weight, Mrs Clinton's campaign dispatched Ms Machado - who is backing Mrs Clinton - to tell reporters how she spent years struggling with eating disorders after being humiliated publicly by Mr Trump.
"I never imagined then, 20 years later I would be in this position, I would be in this moment, like, watching this guy again doing stupid things and stupid comments," Ms Machado said.
"It's really a bad dream for me."
The two candidates' first face-to-face showdown the night before was confrontational from the start, with Trump frequently trying to interrupt Mrs Clinton and speaking over her answers.
She was more measured and restrained, often smiling through his answers, well-aware of the television cameras capturing her reaction.
Mr Trump tried aggressively to pin America's problems on Mrs Clinton.
However, the Democrat, showing her intensive preparations, went after him as hard or harder, including sharp criticism of his business practices and false assertions about President Barack Obama's birthplace, which she called part of a pattern of "racist behaviour".
She repeatedly criticised Mr Trump for breaking tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, declaring: "There's something he's hiding."
When Mrs Clinton suggested his refusal might be because he possibly paid nothing in federal taxes, he interrupted to say: "That makes me smart."
"What in the hell he is talking about?" asked an exasperated Vice President Joe Biden as he campaigned for Mrs Clinton in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
He noted Mr Trump had boasted of making money off the housing market's collapse.
The centrepiece of Mr Trump's case against Mrs Clinton is that the former senator and secretary of state is little more than a career politician who has squandered opportunities to address the domestic and international problems she is now pledging to tackle as president.
"She's got experience," he said, "but it's bad experience."
When Mr Trump made a crack about Mrs Clinton taking time off the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, she turned it into a validation of her readiness.
"I think Donald just criticised me for preparing for this debate," Mrs Clinton said.
"And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing."