It all began with the 2005 video tape that surfaced on Friday, in which Trump bragged about how his celebrity status allowed him to grope and make other sexual advances to women. That this 11 year-old tape should come to light only a few days before the debate and less than a month ahead of the poll, is more than mere coincidence. Also, it's not the first time presidential candidates have had to face ghosts from the past at the most wrong time. It's politics that a democracy gives room for.
Understandably, there was huge uproar. Trump was forced to apologize. Anyone else would have sought this unseemly distraction to end there. But not Trump. At the end of the apology, he made it plain clear that the topic would be discussed in the coming days, and signed off sounding a bit ominous, see you at Sunday's debate.
Trump then turned his focus on Bill Clinton. He got four women who have accused Bill Clinton of transgressions, on stage before the press, a couple of hours before the debate. And according to Washington Post and NBC News, there was a plan to get the four women to confront Bill just as they were to walk in for the debate. But the whole plan was nixed.
As expected, Trump raised the topic during the debate. but Hillary, who was well prepared, refused to take the bait, and steered clear of this non-topic, and focused on current topics of importance to the public.
Trump had come to the debate so much on the defensive and in negative territory, it was pretty easy game for Hillary. She knew Trump was already messing things up further; and she had to only ensure that she didn't make any mistakes. There was no need for her to push Trump deeper into the mess.
It was a dead pan performance by Hillary. She didn't score any major points; and there were no knockout punches. But thanks to Trump's conduct, Hillary seemed to be the winner today, without making winning strokes.
As I write this, it's the day after in the US; and news is breaking that House Speaker Paul Ryan has declared that he will not support Trump. But he hasn't withdrawn his endorsement. Things are so bad, that running mate Mike Pence has had to declare that he hasn't still quit the race.
Polls are showing that Hillary is gaining now. It will be too difficult for Trump to close the gap or even overtake, unless there is a miracle.