ST. LOUIS (MEDIA GENERAL) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump put on a display unlike any other in presidential debate history on Sunday evening.
At Washington University in St. Louis, the billionaire unleashed a torrent of personal attacks against his opponent Hillary Clinton and her husband, enumerating past rape accusations and calling the former president an “abuser of women.”
Nothing was off limits as the GOP nominee stalked across the stage and snapped off one-liners aimed at the Democratic nominee.
“She has tremendous hate in her heart,” Trump declared at one point. He also called her “the devil.”
Trump unloads on Clinton
The Republican standard-bearer brushed off his “locker room talk” from 2005 in which he indicated that he would sexually assault women with kisses and gropes, instead pivoting to Clinton’s private emails. Trump vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Clinton when he occupies the Oval Office, saying if he were president now she’d be in jail.
Trump repeatedly challenged debate moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper, accusing them of bias and shorting him on time, concluding that he was one man against a team of three.
The billionaire readily admitted to using a $916 million loss in 1995 to avoid paying personal federal income taxes for the next two decades. This revelation could revive or extinguish a story that’s been the source of much speculation in 2016, since he still refuses to turn over his tax returns.
Trump also revealed a serious ideological rift with his running mate Gov. Tim Pence (R-Ind.) over how to best quash the civil war underway in Syria. Many were left wondering if Pence, a devout evangelical Christian already embarrassed by his partner’s most recent sex-related scandal, will remain on the ticket.
Clinton stays the course
For her part, Clinton largely stuck to her talking points and avoided engaging in tit-for-tat.
She did her best to, again, shrug off questions about her private email server and the deletion of thousands of emails, some of which were business-related.
The issue of Benghazi was briefly broached, but didn’t dominate the evening’s conversation.
Clinton’s objective was to lay out an affirmative vision to give voters something to line up behind, rather than just someone or something to reject.
(Unexpected) Happy ending
The final question asked the candidates to name one thing they admire about the other, ending on a strikingly different tone.
Clinton said she respected the Trump children who she sees as a positive reflection on their father. Trump called Clinton “a fighter,” saying he admires that she never gives up.
The two ended with a handshake, unlike at the debate’s beginning, and left the stage claiming victory.
Both candidates pleased their core supporters. CNN’s instant polls pointed to Clinton as the night’s winner by a margin of 57-34 percent.
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales