Hillary Clinton has deliberately stayed mum as Republicans denounce Donald Trump, while her campaign prepares for what they’re hoping will be a knockout punch at Sunday night’s debate.
Dozens of Republicans have condemned the comments — including 16 senators — and a number, including the third-ranking Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, have called for him to step down.
Clinton has held her fire — both to keep the media spotlight on an erupting war within the GOP, and for maximum effect as she condemns Trump in front of one of the biggest live television audiences of the campaign cycle.
“I don’t think there’s enough time (for Trump) to overcome this,” said Patti Solis Doyle, Clinton’s former 2008 campaign manager. “He has blown two opportunities apologize,” she said on CNN, citing his initial statement that his comments amount to “locker-room banter.”
The Clinton campaign believes the timing of the release of the tape, two days before the second presidential forum at Washington University, is fortuitous because it allows Clinton to deliver her response early in the debate when most viewers are tuned in, according to a campaign official.
While Republicans scramble to explore their options, including even potentially replacing Trump at the top of the ticket, Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias has assured campaign manager Robby Mook it’s a virtual impossibility this late in the cycle, the official said.
That increases the likelihood, they believe, that tonight’s performance could seal Trump’s fate if he fails to deliver the kind of performance necessary to recover from the controversy.
A number of Republican allies have called on Trump to express complete contrition Sunday night and deliver a sincere apology for the remarks, including to O’Dell.
Yet, in the past 24 hours, Trump has struck a more defiant tone, telling the Wall Street Journal “I never, ever give up. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found just 12% of Republicans think he should end his campaign.
Trump spent much of his day on Twitter sending out missives about women, including Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick, who claim to have been assaulted by Bill Clinton and denouncing members of his party who have condemned him.
Clinton officials say she is unlikely to directly respond to Trump if he attacks her for her husband’s past indiscretions with women. "To try and blame the wife for the sins of the husband, for me, for a lot of women out there, I just don’t think that it’s going to work,” said Solis Doyle.
Instead, the discussion, gives Clinton the chance to elevate another face of a real woman who's been harmed by Trump’s insensitive rhetoric or actions.
In the first debate on Long Island in New York, Clinton introduced to viewers the 1996 Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, whom Trump had called “Miss Piggy” and criticized for gaining weight during her reign. At the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, she put the spotlight on Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of a slain Muslim soldier. Both times, Clinton’s poll ratings increased and Trump’s wilted.
On Sunday night, O’Dell is likely to become another symbol, and there may be more whom Clinton highlights as she challenges Trump to apologize and save his campaign from a major public relations setback weeks before the election.
Copyright 2016 KPNX