WHITE HOUSE RACE: ANALYSIS

Donald Trump’s presidential bid hits new low but how much will latest audio hurt his election chances?

The tape could prove lethal to Trump’s attempt to court women voters, who already prefer Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by a 2-to-1 margin

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 10:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 11:24pm

Could this be it? Donald Trump has insulted a war hero, criticised the family of a fallen soldier, mocked a disabled reporter and remained in the game. But the appearance on Friday of a video in which he brags crudely about making sexual advances to a married woman is raising questions once again: Has Donald Trump gone too far? And could this be the one that sinks his presidential bid?

Possibly not, some analysts suggested, given the Republican presidential nominee’s already well-documented history of making remarks critical of women.

It doesn’t change anybody’s pre-existing opinion of him. Though hearing it in such a graphic way. It’s startling
Katie Packer, Republican strategist

“The point is, it doesn’t change anybody’s pre-existing opinion of him,” said Katie Packer, a Republican strategist and long-time Trump opponent who served as deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run. “Though hearing it in such a graphic way. It’s startling.”

Packer, though, predicted the release of the video could be the first of more embarrassing Trump moments to come: “I do think this is the beginning of a month-long opposition dump. There are probably a lot of hot mic moments.”

Many Republicans were silent as the tape was played on TV. But the video earned Trump one of the harshest rebukes yet from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who said: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”

The Washington Post first published the video from 2005, featuring Trump boasting to TV personality Billy Bush, a host of NBC’s Today show, about a woman that he had “moved on,” but “failed”.

“I did try and f--- her,” he said on the tape. “She was married.”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” he said. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phoney tits and everything.”

Later in the conversation he bragged that he automatically began kissing beautiful women and didn’t hesitate to grope them.

“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the p---y. You can do anything,” he said.

Trump said on Friday that he was sorry if his language had offended anyone, calling it “locker-room banter, a private conversation” that took place years ago. Trump would have been about 60 at the time.

“Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close,” he said in a statement released by his campaign. “I apologise if anyone was offended.”

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The tape could prove lethal to Trump’s attempt to court women voters, who already prefer Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by a 2-to-1 margin. Trump has employed his daughter, Ivanka, on the campaign trail and embraced family-friendly policies like child care and paid leave.

“This is not more graphic than his radio conversations with Howard Stern, but it’s more recently revealed and therefore likely to have greater impact,” said Republican consultant Whit Ayres. “A great many people are just now paying attention.”

Trump’s supporters have shaken off other controversial statements, but Ayres said the challenge for Trump is moving beyond his base.

“He’s not winning right now, therefore just energising your own supporters isn’t sufficient,” Ayres said. “This is the kind of thing that can make that challenging.”

Republicans in tough re-election bids were looking to distance themselves.

“The comments are inappropriate and completely unacceptable,” North Carolina Senator Richard Burr said in a statement to McClatchy.

New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, a vulnerable Republican incumbent who has struggled with Trump’s candidacy, said on Friday his comments were “totally inappropriate and offensive.”

Her opponent, Maggie Hassan, called that response inadequate, demanding that Ayotte disavow Trump.

Trump’s former campaign manager told CNN that the remarks were not “defensible,” but noted it was a private conversation.

“We’re electing a leader for the free world, not a Sunday schoolteacher,” Corey Lewandowksi said.