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Friday 24 March 2023 Dublin: 12°C
John Locher
As it happened: Clinton and Trump go head to head in second debate
Seconds out, round two.

PortNews 0 / YouTube

SECONDS OUT, ROUND two as the second of three US presidential debates takes place in St Louis, Missouri.

Republican Trump, whose campaign has been lumbering from crisis to crisis for months, interspersed with the occasional week of steadiness, is currently enduring the most serious collapse in support for his White House bid so far, after his 2005 comments about groping women emerged on Friday.

But even before the latest fallout, Trump needed to put in the performance of a lifetime to reverse his decline in the polls. Clinton was widely regarded to have won the last debate – managing to get under her rival’s skin on a number of occasions, provoking him to lash out.

Tonight’s format will be different to last week’s – it’s a ‘town hall’, meaning half of the questions will be asked by voters. And while the first set-piece event had only one moderator, tonight’s has two: CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz of ABC. The action gets under way at 2am Irish time, finishing up around 90 minutes later.

We’ll be here til the bitter end. Send your observations and constructive criticism to @PTHosford or throughout the night

Good evening and welcome!

Paul Hosford here to take you up to around 4.30am in the morning as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face off for the second time.

Let’s catch up on where we are, shall we?

Friday’s unearthing of a tape that shows Trump talking about ‘grabbing women by the pussies’ has dogged his preparation for a debate he really has to win.

Having been the consensus loser in the first debate two weeks ago, Trump needed to rebound and appeal to independent voters.

That tape, and other recordings of him talking about women – including allowing Howard Stern call his daughter “a piece of ass” – have changed the dynamic of this debate.

The big question now is – will Trump come out swinging and, if he does, what does he have up his sleeve?

How you can watch

The debate is scheduled to kick off at 2am Irish time and will run until around 3.30am.

If you’re in Ireland, Sky News begins their coverage at 1am, with an hour worth of build-up. BBC News will pick up its coverage as the main event gets underway.

There is much speculation today that Trump will attempt to use Bill Clinton to attack Hillary tonight.

His initial statement on Friday deflected blame to the former President by saying he had ‘said worse’ to Trump.

Now, cornered and behind, it is conceivable that Trump will swing for the fences and try to make Bill a major election issue.

However, Hillary will be difficult to rattle, one would imagine.

Campaign 2016 Debate Patrick Semansky Patrick Semansky

The stage is set…

Associated Press / YouTube

This has been a weird election already.

But nothing is weirder than the sight of 73-year-old Oscar winner Robert De Niro saying he would like to punch a candidate in the face.

It would be smart and strategic of Trump in tonight’s debate then, to focus on a few niche policy areas, do his homework, push Clinton on specifics and give the floating voters a lasting image of Trump besting her in her area of expertise.

So says Lorcan Nyhan writing for earlier today.

Anyone who has ever competitively debated can tell you that mistakes rarely just happen, they are forced by good opponents.

Can Trump really press home the weaknesses in the Clinton campaign? Because, make no mistake, there are openings to exploit – if he’s disciplined enough.

'A monkey with a machine gun'

Campaign 2016 Trump Evan Vucci Evan Vucci

Trump enters this debate trailing in every key state – Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Nevada – which makes him dangerous.

Operatives in the Republican primaries described planning to debate him as planning for a car race where you know one driver will be drunk.

Martin O’Malley, who had a short-lived Presidential campaign, told The Atlantic that Trump was ‘a monkey with a machine gun’ – you know something’s going to go off, but you don’t know in which direction.

And what of the former Secretary of State?

Like her or not, she is a seasoned political operative, endured a marathon debate circuit in 2008′s Democratic primary race and knows policy inside and out.

However, her lack of warmth and personability means the town hall format is possibly her weakest style.

To use boxing parlance, Clinton needs to work the jab tonight, stay protected let Trump’s own bluster hurt him.

Donald Trump is holding a press conference with a woman who claimed Bill Clinton raped her and Hillary Clinton knew about it.

So…that was surreal.

An hour before a US Presidential debate, a candidate sits beside a woman who claims a former President raped her and the opposing candidate knew about it.

Yeah, this is going to be wild.


So, who’s up with me? Not many of you by the looks of it. Regardless, I’m on Twitter @PTHosford or you can email me: all night.

If you have literally any interest in this election, this debate is going to be a must-see.

Record it, watch it live, whatever. But this is going to be fascinating.

Remember 2012? When Mitt Romney was sunk by a  secretly videoed remark about “the 47%”?

That all seems really quaint and innocent now, doesn’t it? Hell, even the “swiftboating” of John Kerry seems really tame.

Clinton responds

A statement from the Clinton campaign calls Trump’s press conference part of his “race to the bottom”.


This is an interesting point. Hillary Clinton is a candidate who has weaknesses, who should be held to account on many things.

But there is absolutely no way she wasn’t ready for these questions, regardless of the manner of their presentation. It would be shocking if she doesn’t have well-drilled, concise answers to the press conference.

The audience is filing in to the arena in St Louis and they will play a key role in the debate.

Members of the audience will ask questions of both candidates, but they will be able to turn their answers on each other.

Adam Boulton of Sky News points out that the town hall format was first used in 1992.

The winner of that election…Bill Clinton.

Saturday Night Live / YouTube

Before we get started, take a couple of minutes to check out Hamilton writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Saturday Night Live monologue from this weekend.

Miranda points out that his record-breaking Broadway show is extremely “culturally relevant” today – two New York politicians engage is a scrappy, ill-tempered political battle.

Hillary Clinton has arrived. Her pantsuit is black with white trim, for those of you interested.

Trump’s tie will be red, apparently.

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump adviser, condemns Trump’s comments as revealed on Friday, but says he will still vote for him.

He does say, however, that Trump has a tough road to win the presidency and that “on days like today, I’m glad I’m not working there”.

Our moderators have arrived: CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz.

Both will be under the microscope after the passive performance of Lester Holt in the first debate.

Alright, it’s almost go time.

Who do you think will win the debate?

Poll Results:

Clinton (470)
Trump (96)

The families are here. Can’t imagine Bill is overly keen to shake hands, but he does so anyway.


Here come the candidates, RING THE BELL.

No handshake

Trump and Clinton don’t shake hands as they arrive on the stage!

Patrice Brock asks if the tone of the debate has been good enough for children.

Clinton wants to “overcome divisiveness and work towards big goals” as a nation.

Here it is in excruciating awkwardness.

Trump says that he joined the campaign because he was sick of seeing “foolish things” happening to America.

He takes shots at Obamacare and the Iran deal – the GOP low-hanging fruit.

Trump is reserved in his opening salvo, but didn’t answer the question. Cooper pushes him to address Friday’s video.

Trump tells Cooper he doesn’t understand the video, but it’s just “locker room talk” and nothing compared to “ISIS chopping off heads”.

Trump has somehow pivoted to a question on whether he has sexually assaulted women to how he would make America safe from ISIS.

Clinton says that she has never doubted an opponent’s fitness for office:

“Donald Trump is different.”

Shots. Fired.

Campaign 2016 Debate Julio Cortez Julio Cortez

Can you feel the awkwardness.

Trump says that Clinton’s attack on his ability to hold office is “just words”.

Trump starts to ramble, but Martha Raddatz moves him on to a question from a Facebook poster who asks if he was a different man at age 59.

Trump goes after Bill Clinton and the gloves are off.

“There’s never been anyone in the history of politics that’s been so abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women, four of them here tonight…she should be ashamed of herself.”

Clinton goes back on the offensive saying that Trump “never apologises for anything”.

Trump fires back that “you owe Obama an apology”.

Trump moves on to Clinton’s email server and says that if he wins he will get a special prosecutor to “look into her situation”.

Yes, a man running for US President just said that if elected, he will instruct the Attorney General to investigate a political opponent.


Clinton says it’s a good thing that someone with Trump’s temperament isn’t running the US justice system.

He fires back “because you’d be in jail”.

This is a town hall meeting, but the crowd has asked on question in 26 minutes as the moderators have let it degenerate into a slanging match.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s a good watch.

Campaign 2016 Debate Jim Bourg Jim Bourg

Bill and Chelsea are here.

Trump has just had a fight with Anderson Cooper and claimed it’s “one on three”.

Finally, we move onto another question. It’s about Obamacare.

Clinton says she wants to fix it because premiums and co-pays are too high. But it needs to stay in place. Trump, of course, wants a day-one repeal if elected.

Trump says that Obamacare is a disaster, but in doing so has a pop at the Canadian healthcare system.

I can hear Canadian Twitter getting revved up already.


Gorba Hamin asks candidates how they will deal with a rise in Islamophobia.

Trump calls it “a shame”, but says there “is a problem” and says Muslims have to report “the problems when they see them”.

The woman who asked the question doesn’t seem assuaged by Trump’s deflection to Clinton.

Clinton says Trump’s “demagogic rhetoric” is dangerous for American Muslims.

She says she wants to beat ISIS by entering into a coalition with Muslim countries.

Trump is hit with his call to ban Muslims from America “until we figure out what’s going on”.

He says that the Muslim ban is now “extreme vetting”. He says that people coming from Syria would vetted.

“People are coming into our country and we have no idea who they are. This will be the greatest Trojan horse of all time.”

Trump has now browbeaten the moderators into giving him an extra response twice.

They really have to be stronger. This is a debate of ideals that’s been allowed become a mud-slinging match.


Just to be clear, Trump’s call for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering America is still on his website. It doesn’t mention “extreme vetting”.

Clinton is asked Wikileaks excerpts from speeches she gave to Wall Street.

She says the issue is political hacking, but Trump says she “got caught in a lie”.

Trump promises tax cuts for middle-class workers and promises to end carried interest provisions, a tax incentive that has benefited him.

Trump adds that he wants to cut taxes and says that Clinton is “raising taxes, really high”.

Says he will “cut taxes, big league”.

Campaign 2016 Debate Patrick Semansky Patrick Semansky

This is now an actual debate between two people with different ideas on how to run a country as they differ on tax codes.

Now the question of Trump’s taxes.

Did he use a billion dollar loss to avoid paying personal taxes?

“Of course I do, as do her donors.

“I understand the tax code better than anyone who’s ever run for President.”

Did Donald Trump just admit to avoid paying taxes?

Trump lands with charges that Clinton has been a career politician and hasn’t addressed healthcare, taxes or the Middle East.

He even manages to blame her for ISIS.

On-message, he’s scoring, but then he drifts into interrupting and petulance as Clinton tries to respond.

Here comes Clinton, roaring back by underscoring her achievements as a Senator and as Secretary of State.

This is where she is comfortable: making this a question of qualified against not qualified.

Both candidates are asked about how they would deal with Syria.

Clinton talks strong on Syria and Russia.

Trump asks why Clinton hasn’t sorted the Syrian Civil War and goes on to say he disagrees with his Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence on how Syria should be handled.

Trump is asked what happens if Aleppo falls.

His answer is “Aleppo is a disaster”.

Pushed by Raddatz, he says “Aleppo has basically fallen” and moves on to Mosul.

Trump is asked his strategy for Syria.

He ignores the question and talks about the “200 admirals and generals and 21 medal of honour recipients” that support him.

Clinton says she would target Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi specifically and arm Kurdish fighters.

Campaign 2016 Debate Patrick Semansky Patrick Semansky

A question from the floor asks how both candidates would be devoted to all of the American people.

Trump uses Clinton’s “deplorables” quote as proof she can’t represent the people of America.

Clinton goes back to her public service. She says that some are worried about not having a place in Donald Trump’s America.

Cooper brings back in the “deplorables” quote, asking how she can unite a country in which she has written off millions of people as sexist or racist.

Clinton backtracks from it, saying she regrets saying it and tries to deflect the spotlight to Trump’s comments about women, POWs and Muslims.

Trump comes back saying that Charlotte, Chicago and Baltimore show that America is a “divided nation” and Clinton has “tremendous hatred in her heart”.

Cooper asks Trump if tweeting at 3am in the morning about a sex tape is showing the necessary discipline for a leader.

Trump says he wasn’t talking about a sex tape (even though he tweeted exactly what Cooper said) then points out that Clinton has sent a tweet at the same time, talks about Benghazi and says he’s proud of his social media following.

Clinton trumpets her husband’s achievements as President and says she’s proud of Barack Obama’s record.

Beth Miller asks about the vacant Supreme Court seat.

Clinton says that she wants to appoint Supreme Court justices who “understand how the world really works”. She says that the Supreme Court should repeal Citizens’ United and “get dark, unaccountable money out of our politics”.

She wants a Supreme Court that would protect both abortion and marriage equality.

Trump says he wants gun rights protected and hits Clinton, saying that he’s putting $100 million into his campaign while she’s taking money from special interests.

Kenneth Bone asks about energy policy.

Trump says he’ll “bring our energy companies back” because they’re “under siege” by the Obama administration.

Clinton says that Trump is angry about Chinese steel being used around America, but is buying it to build his buildings.

She says that America needs to fight climate change and move to clean energy.

Karl Becker asks the candidates to name one thing they respect about the other.

An amazing last question, to be honest.

Clinton says that Trump’s children are incredibly able, which “says a lot about Donald”.

It feels like the question was designed to make the two realise they were friends all along.

Campaign 2016 Debate Voter Voices John Minchillo John Minchillo

Trump says that he too, is proud of his children.

He says that “Hillary doesn’t give up, doesn’t quit”.

“I disagree with her, but she is a fighter and I consider that a very good trait.”

All over

And that’s it.

The candidates shake hands at the end of an aggressive showdown.

That was tense, uncomfortable and fascinating.

They do it all again on 19 October in Nevada. We’ll be there as they do.

So, a score draw?

Both sides able to land punches, with Trump hitting Clinton on e-mails and her links to Wall Street.

There definitely didn’t appear to be a clear winner. Which will probably suit Clinton with just a month to go to polling day.

So, with that, I’m off to bed. Or going to get up and have breakfast. I’m not sure.

Thanks for being with me!

Further reading: Crude and misogynistic: Howard Stern tapes resurface, causing yet more problems for Trump >

Also: Everyone is talking about Alec Baldwin’s spot on Donald Trump impression on SNL >

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