After a Disappointing Debate, Trump Goes on the Attack

Donald J. Trump lashed out on Tuesday in the aftermath of a disappointing first debate with Hillary Clinton, scolding the moderator, criticizing a beauty pageant winner for her physique and raising the prospect of an all-out attack on Bill Clinton’s marital infidelities in the final stretch of the campaign.

Having worked assiduously in recent weeks to cultivate a more disciplined demeanor on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump cast aside that approach on Tuesday morning. As Mrs. Clinton embarked on an ebullient campaign swing through North Carolina, aiming to press her newfound advantage, Mr. Trump vented his grievances in full public view.

Sounding weary and impatient as he called into a Fox News program, Mr. Trump criticized Lester Holt, the NBC News anchor, for asking “unfair questions” during the debate Monday evening, and speculated that someone might have tampered with his microphone. Mr. Trump repeated his charge that Mrs. Clinton lacked the “stamina” to be president, a claim critics have described as sexist, and suggested that in the future he might raise Mr. Clinton’s past indiscretions.

Defying conventions of political civility, Mr. Trump leveled cutting criticism at a beauty pageant winner, Alicia Machado, whom Mrs. Clinton held up in Monday night’s debate as an example of Mr. Trump’s disrespect for women.

Mr. Trump said on Fox he was right to disparage the former Miss Universe because of her weight.

“She was the winner and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” said Mr. Trump, who was the pageant’s executive producer at the time.

Mrs. Clinton has already been broadcasting an ad highlighting crude remarks from Mr. Trump about women; she answered his taunts about her marriage with a rhetorical shrug, telling reporters Mr. Trump was free to run whatever kind of campaign he preferred. On board her campaign plane, she plainly relished her moment of apparent triumph, and poked fun at Mr. Trump’s morning lamentations.

“Anybody who complains about the microphone,” she said, “is not having a good night.”

Mr. Trump’s setback in the debate represents a critical test in the final six weeks of the race. Having drawn closer to Mrs. Clinton in the polls, Mr. Trump now faces an intensified clash over his personal temperament and his attitudes toward women and minorities — areas of grave concern for many voters that were at the center of the candidates’ confrontation on Monday.

Against Mr. Trump’s brooding, Mrs. Clinton cut a strikingly different profile on the campaign trail on Tuesday, emerging emboldened from her encounter with the Republican nominee. At a rally in Raleigh, N.C., Mrs. Clinton, brandishing her opponent’s debate stumbles, assailed Mr. Trump’s comments suggesting he avoided paying taxes and welcomed the 2008 financial crisis as a buying opportunity.

“What kind of person would want to root for nine million families losing their homes?” Mrs. Clinton asked the crowd. “One who should never be president, is the answer to that question.”

Having shaken at least temporarily the malaise of the past month, Mrs. Clinton must seek to gain a durable upper hand over Mr. Trump, who before the debate had been delivering a more focused message on trade, immigration and national security.

Mr. Trump’s comportment on Tuesday threatened to undermine his gains of the past month, and recalled his practice during the Republican primaries and much of the general election of belittling political bystanders in language that alienated voters, like attacking the Muslim parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq and a Hispanic federal judge.

It remains to be seen if Mr. Trump will approach the remainder of the race with the unfiltered abandon of his comments Tuesday morning.

By the day’s end, Mr. Trump had returned to a caustic but somewhat more conventional script, attacking Mrs. Clinton in bitter language at a rally in Melbourne, Fla.

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