The 2016 presidential race now appears in full scandal mode — with accusations this weekend about Donald Trump being a tax dodger and Hillary Clinton being privately indifferent to the millennial voters whose support she needs — with no end in sight.
To be sure, Trump has even vowed to bring up at the next presidential debate claims about former President Bill Clinton having extra-marital affairs and wife Hillary’s apparent attempts to silence the women accusers — despite fellow Republicans urging him to avoid such a strategy.
And he suggested Saturday that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, might have been unfaithful to her husband.
On Sunday, Trump, the Republican nominee, seemed ready to refocus on policy and his effective economic agenda — at least slightly more.
“I have created tens of thousands of jobs and will bring back great American prosperity. Hillary has only created jobs at the FBI and DOJ!” tweeted Trump, referring to the now-closed federal investigation into Clinton using a private server system while secretary of state.
With about five weeks remaining before Election Day, Clinton holds a slight lead over Trump, according to most polls published after their debate last week in which Trump appeared to get off track in the closing stages.
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A Fox News Channel poll released Friday shows Clinton leading by 5 percentage points, 49-to-44 percent.
The fresh round of accusations started Friday when an audiotape of a Clinton fundraiser in February surfaced and revealed her candid albeit unflattering portrait of millennials, then turned Saturday night to speculation about whether Trump has paid federal taxes since the mid-1990s, following a New York Times report.
“Bombshell,” Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted after the story, which appeared to show Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 IRS return and speculated that he might not have paid federal taxes for the next 18 years, as a result.
However, such speculation, amid Trump, a New York real estate mogul, not releasing his tax returns, was beat back Sunday by top surrogates and advisers.
“No apologies for complying with the law,” New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie said on “Fox News Sunday.” He argued that Trump showed business “genius” in using the laws to his advantage and that he is the best candidate to fix the laws that are an “absolute mess.”
“This was actually a very, very good story for him,” Christie continued. ““You don’t know that he didn’t pay taxes. Let’s be precise about what (the story) said.”
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on ABC’s “This Week” described Trump as an “absolute genius” in how he used tax law to his advantage.
In the audiotape released Friday — which was purportedly hacked from an email, then given to The Washington Free Beacon — Clinton portrays millennial as “living in their parents’ basement” and as college-educated “baristas” concerned about a bleak economic future.
However, she warns about overpromising them, as primary rival-turned campaign supporter Bernie Sanders did.
Sanders, a Vermont senator, acknowledged Sunday on CNN that he was bothered by Clinton’s comments, saying his and her campaigns still have “real differences,” beyond their mutual interest in defeating Trump.
“Crooked H is nasty to Sanders supporters behind closed doors,” Trump tweeted. “Owned by Wall St and Politicians, HRC is not with you.”
The campaigns, which historically go into full attack mode in the final weeks, could return to arguments about policy and platforms when the vice-presidential nominees — Virginia Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and Indian GOP Gov. Mike Pence — meet Tuesday in their first-and-only debate of the election cycle.
However, both are veteran politicians who have rigorously attacked Trump and Clinton, respectively, and will likely include such tactics when they go face to face.
Clinton made a stop Sunday at a church in Charlotte, N.C., an event postponed because of rioting late last month after a police officer fatally shot a black male.
Trump held a rally Saturday in Pennsylvania, where he made no mention of the Miss Universe winner, whom Clinton said during the debate Monday was verbally abused by Trump.
Trump spent much of the rest of the week attacking the pageant queen’s character, even implying she participated in a sex tape and arguing that Clinton had been duped into championing her.
“I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill, if you want to know the truth. And really folks, why should she be, right?” he told the crowd in Pennsylvania, a critical state in Clinton and Trump’s path toward the White House.
Trump returns to the campaign trail Monday with an event in northern Virginia, while Clinton makes two stops in battleground Ohio, where Trump now appears to be doing especially well.
Her visit comes about one week prior to Ohio’s voter-registration deadline, October 11, and the start of early voting, October 12.
On Wednesday, President Obama will stump for Clinton in the Miami-area of Florida, another key state for both candidates and where their race also remains close.