- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Clinton campaign on Tuesday fed reporters’ frenzy with two people who said they were victims of Donald Trump’s ruthless and nasty business tactics, continuing to bait the Republican presidential nominee a day after an unsteady debate performance left him offering excuses.

The billionaire businessman complained about his “terrible” microphone during Monday’s debate and said he pulled his punches against Hillary Clinton, avoiding bringing up painful personal memories for the Democratic nominee and her husband, who admitted to extramarital infidelity.

Mrs. Clinton and her team, though, showed no such restraint, saying Mr. Trump was “racist” in his business dealings, demeaned women and cheated small-business owners — two of whom took to the media to drive home the campaign’s message.

“For me, these elections are like a bad dream,” said Alicia Machado, who won the 1996 Miss Universe crown soon after Mr. Trump took control of the pageant. She said she suffered as Mr. Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and demanded that she lose weight to maintain her beauty queen image.

Meanwhile, architect Andrew Tesoro said the Republican nominee stiffed him out of more than $100,000 for design work at one of Mr. Trump’s golf courses and countered Mr. Trump’s claim that he did bad work by producing a letter complimenting the job he did.

“I was disgruntled, but I must say that Mr. Trump has an amazing way of telling people what they want to hear, as he did with me,” Mr. Tesoro said on MSNBC.

More than 80 million people watched the kickoff debate, with a steady and calculated performance by Mrs. Clinton. She ignored Mr. Trump’s chiding attacks and instead tried to bait him by telling the stories of Mr. Tesoro and Ms. Machado.

Mr. Trump avoided any massive outbursts, but pundits said his performance showed a lack of preparation. Still, unscientific online polls seemed to portray Mr. Trump as the victor, underscoring a division between Washington-based media and average voters.

Campaigning in Florida on Tuesday, Mr. Trump noted the record-breaking viewership, which topped 80 million.

“Last night was very exciting, and almost every single poll had us winning the debate against Crooked Hillary Clinton big league — big league,” Mr. Trump said to cheers at a rally in Melbourne. “She is as crooked as they come.

“For 90 minutes, she argued against change, while I called for dramatic change,” he said. “She’s the candidate of yesterday, and ours is the campaign and we’re the people of the future.”

Mr. Trump said debate moderator Lester Holt did a “fine” job but didn’t ask Mrs. Clinton about various scandals tied to her private email server, the Clinton Foundation, and the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

He said his microphone wasn’t working properly and speculated that it might have been set up to malfunction on purpose.

“I don’t want to believe in conspiracy theories, of course, but it was much lower than hers and it was crackling, and she didn’t have that problem,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News. “You have a bum mic, it’s not exactly good.”

Mrs. Clinton, brimming with confidence, said such complaints aren’t signs of a winning candidate. “Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night,” she told reporters.

Mr. Trump said he refrained from bringing up former President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs during the debate because the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, was in the audience. He indicated that he might get tougher in the final two debates next month.

“I may hit her harder in certain ways. I really eased up because I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” he said on Fox.

He continued to criticize Ms. Machado, saying she was “the absolute worst” and “impossible.”

“She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign said Mr. Trump, who has criticized the former secretary of state’s stamina, was the one looking like he was out of gas by the end of the debate.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Mrs. Clinton’s running mate, said the debate exposed Mr. Trump as “easily rattled.”

“She looked like she was ready for another 11 hours of debate, and he looked like he had run out of gas and was leaning up against the ropes,” Mr. Kaine said on NBC’s “Today” program.

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