ST. LOUIS — Donald Trump survives.
Coming at a harrowing time for his campaign, the Republican nominee entered the presidential debate here Sunday night facing calls from members of his own party to step aside. But Trump used an aggressive performance against Hillary Clinton to signal to those critics in the Republican Party that he has no intention of going anywhere.
Following the debate, Trump allies expressed optimism in interviews with The Daily Caller that the candidate’s strong debate performance will be effective in fighting back against those critics.
“I think tonight, there’s a shot of enthusiasm that’s been sent out, where you’re going to see Republicans realize this is the fighter, this is the agent of change that we need,” Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said in the spin room. “And we are going to see a lot of energy, a lot of wind in our sails tomorrow.”
Asked about those in the party trying to push Trump out of the race, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, one of Trump’s closest advisers, said: “Well I think if they’ve watched this debate, they’ll see why he absolutely shouldn’t withdraw. And why Republicans can win this election.”
“He favors every agenda item of the Republican party,” Sessions said. “Tell me what he doesn’t believe. He believes in lower taxes, less regulation, strong national defense… border security, and effective trade agreements,” he said, also listing off other positions, including on the debt and foreign policy.
“I’m just a bit baffled by this,” Sessions added. “I’d say the choice couldn’t be clearer. And I believe the Republican voters are going to see that, and I believe he’s going to see a big surge in his support among Republicans after this night.”
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Trump’s former primary rival and now surrogate, said of those pushing the Republican to step aside: “I’d say to them: are you a person who has read the Republican platform and the Democratic platform? And do you realize that there is a stark difference between the two? And do you want to align yourself with the Democratic platform? And if you do, then continue down that path.”
During the debate, Trump survived questioning from moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz over the surfacing of a 2005 video of Trump using graphic language to describe an unsuccessful attempt at sleeping with a female television show host. More than 25 Republican lawmakers have called on Trump to withdraw from the race because of those comments.
Asked by TheDC in the spin room if the Clinton campaign leaked that video to the Washington Post, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon simply responded “no.”
“This was locker room talk,” Trump said during the debate, when pressed on the issue. “I’m not proud of it.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton went on the attack, saying Trump “has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is.”
Trump played offense, invoking Bill Clinton sexual abuse accusers Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones while accusing his opponent of working to silence those women.
For the rest of the townhall-style debate, Trump and Clinton moved on to other issues, including her emails, his taxes, Russia and Syria without the issue of the 2005 video coming up again.