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Trump Might Not Accept Election Results, Calls Clinton ‘A Nasty Woman’

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Republican candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested he might reject the outcome of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election if he loses, a possibility his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton called “horrifying.”

In their third and final presidential debate, Trump said he would wait to decide whether the outcome was legitimate.

“I will tell you at the time, I will keep you in suspense,” Trump said.

Clinton said she was “appalled” by Trump’s stance.

“Let’s be clear about what he is saying and what that means: He is denigrating, he is talking down our democracy and I for one am appalled that someone who is the nominee for one of our two major parties would take that position,” she said.

She said Trump, a former reality TV star, had in the past also complained that his show was unjustly denied a U.S. television Emmy award.

“I should have gotten it,” Trump retorted.

In a fiery debate that centered more on policy than the earlier showdowns, Trump accused Clinton’s campaign of orchestrating a series of accusations by women who said the businessman made unwanted sexual advances.

Trump said all of the stories were “totally false” and suggested Clinton was behind the charges. He called her campaign “sleazy” and said, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do, nobody.”

Clinton said the women came forward after Trump said in the last debate he had never made unwanted advances on women. In a 2005 video, Trump was recorded bragging about groping women against their will.

“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like,” said Clinton, the first woman to win the nomination of a major U.S. political party.

She cited other minorities she said Trump had maligned.

“This is a pattern. A pattern of divisiveness, of a very dark and in many ways dangerous vision of our country where he incites violence, where he applauds people who are pushing and pulling and punching at his rallies. That is not who America is,” she said.

Trump entered the debate hoping to reverse his fading momentum in an election that opinion polls show is tilting away from him. The New York businessman has raised concerns by claiming the election will be rigged against him, and has urged supporters to patrol polling places in inner cities to prevent voter fraud.

The two presidential rivals had a tough but issues-based exchanges on abortion, gun rights and immigration during the 90-minute showdown, but occasionally reacted angrily.

Clinton said she would raise taxes on the wealthy to help fund the U.S. government’s Social Security retirement program, but suggested Trump might try to find a way out of paying the higher taxes.

“Such a nasty woman,” Trump said.

Trump, 70, and Clinton, 68, battled sharply over the influence of Vladimir Putin, with Clinton calling Trump the Russian president’s puppet and Trump charging Putin had repeatedly outsmarted Clinton.

Clinton said Trump had refused to condemn Putin and Russia for recent cyber attacks.

“He’d rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence officials that are sworn to protect us,” Clinton said.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security have said the Russian leadership was responsible for recent cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee and the leaking of stolen emails.

Trump rejected the idea that he was close with Putin, but suggested he would have a better relationship with Russia’s leader than Clinton.

“He said nice things about me,” Trump said. “He has no respect for her, he has no respect for our president and I’ll tell you what, we’re in very serious trouble.”

Clinton responded: ”Well that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.”

“No, you’re the puppet,” Trump said. “Putin has outsmarted her and Obama every single step of the way,” he said in a reference to U.S. President Barack Obama, a Democrat like Clinton.

Clinton also said Trump had been “cavalier” about nuclear weapons and should not be trusted with the nuclear codes.

SUPREME COURT

Clinton promised to appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who would uphold a woman’s right to abortion laid out in the court’s 1973 Roe vs Wade decision, while Trump promised to appoint what he called “pro-life” justices who would overturn the decision.

Under existing law, Trump said, “You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”

“Honestly, nobody has business doing what I just said, doing that as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth,” Trump said.

Clinton said Trump’s “scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate.”

“This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make and I do not believe the government should be making it,” Clinton said.

Trump said he would appoint a Supreme Court justice who would protect American gun rights.

He has said in the past that Clinton wants to “essentially abolish” the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing a right to bear arms.

Clinton said she supports gun rights, but wants additional regulations on guns, citing examples of children being hurt or killed in gun accidents. “I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment.”

Clinton and Trump walked straight to their podiums when they were introduced at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, once again forgoing the traditional handshake as they did at the second debate last week in St. Louis, Missouri. This time they did not shake hands at the end of the debate, either.

The debate gave Trump, making his first run for elected office, perhaps his best remaining chance to sway the dwindling number of Americans who are still undecided about their vote.

Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, leads in national polls and in most of the battleground states where the election will likely be decided. The debate was her opportunity to make a closing argument on why she is best suited to succeed Obama.

Clinton has struggled to get past concerns about transparency raised over her use of a private email server for work communications while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

The two candidates clashed over accusations that Clinton as secretary of state did favors for high-dollar donors to her family’s Clinton Foundation. Asked about a potential conflict of interest, she said she acted “in furtherance of our country’s values and interests.”

She and Trump talked over each other, Clinton defending her ties to the foundation, saying “there is no evidence” of a conflict, while Trump said the foundation should return millions of dollars to countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who treat gay people harshly.

“It’s a criminal enterprise,” Trump said.

Clinton said she would be happy to compare the Clinton Foundation to Trump’s charitable Trump Foundation, which among its activities was to buy “a six-foot statue of Donald.”

(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson in Las Vegas and Luciana Lopez in New York; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Howard Goller)

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton listen during their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Trump Vs. Clinton: Debate Will Mark Biggest Moment Of Election

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Hillary Clinton, suddenly vulnerable in the presidential race, is under pressure to deliver a strong performance against Republican Donald Trump in their first debate on Monday, a moment that could be the most consequential yet of the 2016 election.

Political veterans involved in preparing for past presidential debates said Clinton should drive home how she would run the country during uncertain times and draw a contrast as the steady, experienced alternative to the untested Trump. For his part, Trump needed to show enough gravitas to convince skeptics that he is ready to be commander in chief, they said.

The 90-minute face-off at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, the first of three debates, takes place at a time when Clinton’s once-comfortable lead in opinion polls over the former reality TV star has evaporated.

History shows that a single bad debate performance can alter the trajectory of a U.S. presidential race. Reuters/Ipsos polling shows about 20 percent of the electorate remains undecided, far higher at this stage in the campaign than the 12 percent undecided four years ago.

The TV audience for the debate is expected to be a record, easily surpassing the record 46.2 million households who watched the first encounter between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, according to the Nielsen ratings company.

“I am going to do my very best to communicate as clearly and fearlessly as I can in the face of the insults and the attacks and the bullying and the bigotry that we have seen coming from my opponent,” Clinton said on Tuesday on the Steve Harvey Radio show.

Anita Dunn, who helped President Barack Obama prepare for debates against Republican nominee John McCain in 2008, said Obama succeeded at their first debate by steering the conversation repeatedly back to the struggling U.S. economy even though the event was supposed to be about foreign policy.

She said she expected Clinton to try to exploit Trump’s weaknesses and emphasize her strengths. “The contrast between them is what you want to hone,” she said.

The debate will be the best opportunity for two candidates, both widely seen by voters as untrustworthy, to put to rest questions about their fitness for the White House with the Nov. 8 election fast approaching.

Even the candidates’ body language will be closely scrutinized, just as it has been in past elections.

Brett O’Donnell, a debate coach who helped President George W. Bush in his 2004 debates and McCain in 2008, said Bush did not put in the necessary work for his first debate against Democrat John Kerry that year and it showed.

Quickly put on the defensive, Bush blinked rapidly and slouched behind the lectern. Kerry was judged the winner. Bush got more serious about the debates after that, O’Donnell said.

Clinton had a shaky performance at a Sept. 7 NBC “Commander-in-Chief” forum where she became prickly in response to questions about her handling of classified emails while serving as U.S. secretary of state.

“Presentation is very important, and Hillary has to work on that. Her presentation at the ‘Commander-in-Chief’ forum was not very good. She didn’t come off as likeable. She came off as sour and defensive,” O’Donnell said.

TWO TRUMPS

Clinton is spending most of this week in debate preparations with a small circle of top aides at her home in Chappaqua, New York.

Clinton aides said she is preparing for two scenarios: One in which Trump is measured and serious, and another in which he is freewheeling and makes inflammatory personal attacks.

Trump relied on his famed spontaneity to fire off one-line zingers to dismantle 16 Republican rivals during the primaries, dispatching “low-energy” Jeb Bush or “lying Ted” Cruz and “little Marco” Rubio. He has repeatedly called Clinton “crooked Hillary” at rallies.

“You’re just not sure who is going to show up,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a senior adviser to Clinton. “He may be aggressive or he may lay back. That’s hard to game out necessarily so I would say most of the focus is on what points does she want to make.”

A Trump supporter, Republican U.S. Representative Chris Collins of New York, said Trump understands that he needs to put forth a presidential demeanor.

“I think the seriousness of that can’t be understated and that we’re going to see the debate prep making sure that she’s not going to be able to pull him somehow off the message,” he said.

Rick Lazio, a Republican former congressman from New York, found Clinton a tough opponent when he faced her in a U.S. Senate debate in New York in 2000.

He was seen as bullying, lost the debate and the election, and now says Trump will need to treat Clinton carefully.

“What he has to avoid is a sense that he is name-calling, highly disrespectful, badgering, anything like that,” he said.

ROLE-PLAYING

Former Republican Senator Judd Gregg, who played Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry in George W. Bush’s mock debate sessions in 2000 and 2004, said Bush began preparing in early June unbeknownst to the news media and for a while did two practice sessions a day.

For that reason, he said, he suspects Trump is doing more preparation work than he lets on.

“I have to believe he is doing something because it would be foolish to go in there and not practice at hearing lines,” he said.

A Republican source close to the campaign said former Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes has been coaching Trump but that the former reality TV star does not want to be over-prepared.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Trump is preparing for the debates but “there’s nobody who’s playing the role of Hillary Clinton.”

“Mr. Trump prepares for everything that he does,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan; Editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (L) and Jim Urquhart