'Horrible liars': Trump lashes out at assault claims

Jessica Leeds arrives at her apartment building, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in New York. Leeds was one of two women who told the New York Times that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump touched her inappropriately. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Rocked by allegations of sexual assault, Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at his female accusers as "horrible, horrible liars," escalated his attacks on the media, and branded the Clintons "criminals" as the Republican nominee dragged the deeply divisive presidential campaign further into the gutter. Trump devoted much of a Florida speech to defending himself against multiple reports of sexual assault — accusations that he blamed on Hillary Clinton's campaign, the news media, and a conspiracy to rob his supporters of their country. Trump urged his supporters to disregard poll numbers showing him behind and to embrace his campaign as part of the "survival" of the United States.

This is a struggle for the survival of our nation, believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it — on Nov 8. Remember that! This election will determine whether we are a free nation or whether we have only the illusion of democracy, but are in fact controlled by a small handful of global special interests rigging the system.

Donald Trump

But it's unclear whether Trump's strategy is even aimed at winning the election at this point. Increasingly, Trump's campaign feels like an opportunity for longtime Clinton opponents to air decades worth of grievances against the Democratic power couple on the biggest stage in American politics. Taken together, the stories about Trump and his attacks of Bill Clinton have plunged an already rancorous campaign to a new low. The real estate mogul has also aggressively charged that Hillary Clinton not only needs to be defeated in November but also imprisoned. "Honestly, she should be locked up," he said Thursday. For her part, Clinton, who is on pace to become America's first female president if her lead holds, has tried to stay above the fray. She has yet to respond directly to Trump's decision to resurrect accusations about her husband.

We have 26 days left. I don't think there has ever been a more important 26 days in American history. This is such an election between two very different visions, views and sets of values.

Hillary Clinton speaking during a surprise appearance at a San Francisco campaign office
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National polling average

National polls continue to show a vast and growing Clinton lead, in spite of Trump's claims to the contrary. The story is no different in battleground states. Indeed, Trump's campaign has decided to close up shop in the key state of Virginia, effectively conceding 13 electoral votes in a sign of its financial and polling struggles.