By Brenda Flanagan
The gloves came off early in a substantive but fiery collision between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that sparked new controversies even as it addressed old issues. Overall, core supporters approved this third and final debate.
“I thought it was of all of them the most professional. This really shows the clear difference between the choices that we have,” said Assemblyman Vincent Prieto.
Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about women who claim they were groped or unwillingly kissed by the candidate.
“Those stories have been largely debunked. Those people, I don’t know those people. I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it. It was all fiction. It was lies and it was fiction,” Trump said.
“A number of women have come forward, saying that’s exactly what he did to them. Now, what was his response? He held a number of big rallies where he said he could not have possibly done those things to those women because they were not attractive enough for them to be assaulted,” Clinton said, to which Trump replied, “I did not say that. I did not say that.”
Outside the State House today, activists rallied against Trump and mockingly called on Gov. Chris Christie to disavow his support of the Republican candidate. They say the debate reveals the real Trump.
“He’s a misogynist man, he has no respect for women. And he has demonstrated that in this campaign he’s waged with Hillary Clinton,” said Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver.
“I mean for me it’s offensive he’s even a candidate and that we’ve got to continue to deal with that,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.
Christie, who heads Trump’s transition team, has in fact skipped the last two debates.
“Gov. Christie couldn’t distance himself more from the Trump campaign at this point than if he went and hid in a cave in Siberia. I think he’s made it pretty clear by his actions that he’s no longer a spokesperson for Trump,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray.
On foreign policy, Trump and Clinton repeatedly clashed over how to defeat ISIS, secure the southern border and handle immigration.
“Once the border is secured, at a later date, we’ll make a determination as to the rest. But we have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out,” Trump said.
“I think it’s an idea that would rip our country apart,” Clinton said.
Challenged on WikiLeaks, Clinton called it a Russian hack job while Trump accused her of being weak in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin, from everything I see, has no respect for this person,” Trump said.
“Well that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” Clinton said.
“No puppet. No puppet,” Trump replied.
But the night’s most critical moment came when Wallace asked Trump if he’d abide by the election results, after calling the election “rigged”.
“I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense,” Trump said.
“Well, Chris, let me respond to that because that’s horrifying. Every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction he claims whatever it is is rigged against him,” Clinton said.
“He just proves even further how he’s not fit — like a spoiled brat that’s not getting his way. So now he’ll hold breath and stomp his feet,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
The remark divided Trump supporters.
“It’s a shame that comment has drowned out what was some pretty substantive discussion of the issues,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.
“The entire system is rigged,” said Sen. Mike Doherty.
Trump supporter Doherty says Democrat Al Gore challenged the election in 2000.
“Donald Trump is trying to bring common sense and standing up for the American people because the folks in Washington D.C. haven’t been doing that. It’s a corrupt system,” he said.
Longtime Trump pal Joe Piscopo took it with a grain of salt.
“I know as an entertainer he knows what buttons to push. He knew exactly what the press would jump on so he said that to embolden his base,” he said.
Trump and Clinton will actually have one more showdown, both delivering remarks tonight at the Al Smith charity dinner where traditionally candidates poke gentle fun at each other.