The second presidential debate this year was a town hall forum in St. Louis, and given the weekend's previous events, fireworks flew from the get-go.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton got straight to the point after taking the presidential debate stage Sunday night -- the Republican calling her a "devil" and the Democrat saying her opponent owes all Americans an apology for a campaign driven by insulting, degrading comments about women, African-Americans and others.
The debate, coming little more than 48 hours after the release of a recording in which Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women, caps off a weekend that saw senior Republican elected officials, including Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and John Thune, rescind their support for Trump. Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump’s own running mate, Mike Pence, condemned the remarks.
But Trump remained defiant. After stating he will never drop out of the race, and slamming Republican defectors, he has sought to focus on accusations of sexual assault levied at Bill Clinton, who is not running for president.
The town hall style debate is moderated by ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Clinton did get in a couple body blows on Trump's video, but Trump went completely off the rails near the end.
If Trump is elected, he said, he will appoint a special prosecutor with the aim of putting Clinton in prison for her actions related to keeping a private email server during her time as secretary of state. The use of the server was investigated by the FBI, which decided not to press charges.
“I didn't know I would say this, but I'm going to and I hate to say it,” Trump said. “If I win, I am going to instruct my Attorney General to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. There has never been so many lies, so much exception. There has never been anything like it. We will have a special prosecutor.”
“You should be ashamed,” Trump repeated.
Clinton called Trump’s accusations “absolutely false.”
“It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Clinton said.
Trump fired back: "Because you would be in jail.”
I mean openly threatening to jail your political opponent at a town hall debate is the stuff of nightmares if you're Trump's handlers. If he hadn't somehow lost the campaign with the video of him happily describing how good he is at sexual assault, this finished him in the long run.
In the short run, it actually serves the purpose of keeping him in the race by serving as red meat to vacillating supporters. The calls for him to drop out will almost certainly stop. And that's what Democrats should be salivating over.
I don't want Trump to drop out on his terms. I want him to get smashed flat by the enraged giant of the body politic and take GOP control of Congress with him.
29 days to go and the odds of a landslide are better than ever. And Trump has another debate and four more weeks of reminding people how petty, awful, abusive, bellicose and intemperate he is. Trump, as BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray finds, has gone the Full Breitbart.
On Sunday night, Trump signaled that his objective now is to fight to the end as the champion of the populist nationalist movement he has spearheaded and which propelled him to the Republican nomination. Trump’s revanchist positioning is a sign he’s retreated to pleasing the hard core of his base, despite the fact that they cannot deliver him the White House; a performance like this won’t bring on board the voters Trump must persuade in order to win.
I like Clinton's chances here. Trump's going to lose, the question is by how much, and how many downticket races he can wreck before it's all said and done. He did a good job of starting that process this weekend and continued in the debate and made it very clear his goal is now to try to punish anyone in America who doesn't support him, and to try to bully the rest of us into doing that.
Not only will that fail, it's going to crack the GOP like an egg fired from a railgun. When that goes splat all over his face, it will most likely take the GOP with it, because now they are stuck between supporting him and losing swing voters, and not supporting him and losing the base. It's not going to hold anymore.
And it's going to be amazing when this detonates in four weeks. All Trump did was trade in his support floor for a support ceiling.