Hilary Clinton celebrates as Trump makes excuses over TV showdown disaster
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 yesterday.
"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 that 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 their daughter Chelsea Clinton had been at the event.
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.
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.