HAVERFORD, Pa. (AP) — Hillary Clinton appealed to voting mothers Tuesday at a Family Town Hall, outlining ways she hopes to curb gun violence as president and provide paid family leave and sick days for struggling working moms.
“It should not be so hard to be a young parent. And it should not be so hard on the other end of the age spectrum to take care of your loved one,” Democrat Clinton said in a question-and-answer session with supporters, making the case to female voters who have periodically backed Republicans in past presidential races.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, sought to shore up support in Arizona after finding himself on the defensive with revelations that his massive financial losses could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for years. He was also grappling with new allegations of boorish treatment of women and criticism of his comments about veterans’ health.
The issues were certain to take the spotlight Tuesday night at the first vice presidential debate between Republican nominee Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
First lady Michelle Obama joined in, assailing Trump at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina. She said, “The presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”
Trump has not said whether he has paid federal income taxes in recent years and has refused to release his tax returns. On the stump Monday night, he told supporters he used taxes law “brilliantly” to his benefit, but pointed to “unfairness” in the system.
“But I’m working for you now. I’m not working for Trump,” he said at a rally in Colorado, part of a Western campaign swing due to take him to Prescott Valley, Arizona, later in the day.
Trump’s tax reform proposals do not call for changing the provision that would have allowed him to avoid paying taxes.
There were signs Trump’s troubles were trickling down to other Republicans on the ballot.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican running for re-election, stumbled on Monday night when she was asked whether she considers her party’s nominee to be a role model for children. Ayotte, who is in a close race with Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, initially answered “absolutely,” but then backtracked in a statement afterward saying she had changed her mind.
“I misspoke tonight,” the statement said. “While I would hope all of our children would aspire to be president, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have set a good example, and I wouldn’t hold up either of them as role models for my kids.”
Ayotte’s trouble answering the question underscores Trump’s trouble with independent, moderate and college-educated women who are turned off Trump.
Those were precisely the type of voters Clinton was seeking to connect with in suburban Philadelphia’s Delaware County, where President Barack Obama earned 60 percent of the vote in both the 2008 and 2012 election but has often served as a swing area in the battleground state.
During the town hall, 15-year-old Brennan Leach, the daughter of Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach, told Clinton that “body image” was a major issue for girls her age at school, adding, “I see with my own eyes the damage Donald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look.”
Responding to how she would “undo some of that damage,” Clinton thanked Leach as the crowd cheered, saying she was “so proud of you for asking that question.” She said her opponent had taken this concern to a new level of difficulty and meanness. And you know, it’s shocking when women are called names.”
“Think about it, my opponent insulted Miss Universe. I mean how do you get more acclaimed than that? But it wasn’t good enough.” She added, “we need to laugh at it. We need to refute it. We need to ignore it. We need to stand up to it.”
Chelsea Clinton, the mother of two young children and a top surrogate for elusive young voters who have yet to fully embrace the Democrat, said her mother was committed to helping families. “I wish that people really understood that stronger together, that putting families and children first, isn’t rhetorical for my mom,” she said.
Clinton was also campaigning later in the day in Harrisburg.
Trump faced new questions over his treatment of women Monday as former cast and crew members from the reality TV show “The Apprentice” described for the first time his treatment of women on the set. Show insiders told The Associated Press that Trump rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he’d like to have sex with.
The campaign issued a broad denial, calling the claims “totally false.”
Trump was also taking heat over remarks suggesting that soldiers who suffer from mental health issues might not be as strong as those who don’t.
“When you talk about the mental health problems — when people come back from war and combat, and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it. But a lot of people can’t handle it,” Trump told a veterans group Monday.
Trump made the comments as he discussed his commitment to improving mental health services for veterans.
Vice President Joe Biden, whose late son was in the national guard and served in Iraq, called Trump “out of touch.”
In an interview that aired Tuesday on CNN, the vice president also said Trump is “not a bad man.” But he added: “His ignorance is profound, so profound.”
Trump’s campaign said Monday the comment was being misconstrued.
Hennessey reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
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