Trump sex tape comments frustrate GOP supporters

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Donald Trump’s middle-of-the-night tweets about a beauty queen sex tape are frustrating Republican supporters, who worry once again that their candidate’s lack of discipline will hamper his campaign.

They say Trump needs to keep his focus on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, prepare for their second debate, on Oct. 9 in St. Louis, and quit taking the bait from Democrats.

{mosads}“It’s unlikely the Miss Universe flap is hurting Trump with current supporters, but it’s hard to see how it helps grow our vote,” said one GOP lawmaker who supports Trump.

“Maybe it’s quaint conventional wisdom. But it seems he would help himself to talk about the real world problems that every day voters face,” the lawmaker said.

Trump has not been able to let go his feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

In a series of tweets beginning at 3:19 a.m. on Friday and ending at 5:30 a.m., the New York billionaire sought to discredit Machado by drawing attention to tawdry details about her past, including allegations — debunked by fact-checkers — that she has filmed a “sex tape.”

Those allegations reignited Democratic attacks against Trump over his treatment of Machado just as the issue seemed ready to peter out. 

Clinton already had been doing everything she could to keep the Machado story going, believing Trump’s fat-shaming of the Venezuelan would help her with both women and Hispanic voters.

She responded to Trump’s tweet-storm with her own series of tweets, calling Trump “unhinged.” 

“What kind of man stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?,” Clinton tweeted.

“When something gets under Donald’s thin skin, he lashes out and can’t let go,” she said. “This is dangerous for a president. To Donald, women like Alicia are only as valuable as his personal opinion about their looks.”

Machado followed with a Spanish-language post on her Instagram account accusing Trump of “defamations and false accusations.” 

“The attacks are slander and cheap lies generated with bad intentions and no basis that have been spread by tabloids,” Machado wrote. “This, of course, is not the first time I’ve faced a situation like this. Through his campaign of hate, the Republican candidate insists on discrediting and demoralizing a woman, which is definitely one of his most terrifying characteristics.”

Trump’s supporters believe he has once again been blown off course at a critical juncture in the race.

“We should be talking about the 33,000 emails,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a top Trump supporter and surrogate, told The Hill.

She said the GOP nominee needs to focus on Clinton’s weaknesses.

“We should be talking about the fact that the House had to do another hearing yesterday with James Comey about this issue,” she said. “We should be talking about new information on the Iran deal. We should be talking about what is happening with the Clinton Foundation and how in heaven’s name two people leave the White House saying they are dead broke and a few years later they’re worth several hundred million dollars and it seems like the Foundation is a conduit for that activity.”

Democrats are basking in Trump’s response, believing they’ve baited him into another ill-fated fight. It comes as the GOP nominee faces a critical stretch in which he needs to make up ground on Clinton in the polls. New surveys from Suffolk University released on Friday showed him trailing Clinton in Florida, Michigan and Nevada.

“Trump must grow his base of support to win … and specifically he needs to grow the vote with college-educated women,” said the GOP lawmaker.

Many conservatives are angered that the media has run with the Clinton campaign’s narrative that Machado is an innocent victim in the right’s long-running war on women.

They point to media reports from the late 1990s that indicate Machado was once suspected of driving the getaway car for her boyfriend after he attempted to murder someone at a funeral.

Machado was never charged, but the judge in the case later accused her of threatening him. She dodged questions about the incident in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper this week.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has challenged Machado’s assertion that Trump drove her to anorexia and bulimia, reading from an old Washington Post story quoting Machado as saying she developed eating disorders before becoming Miss Universe.

Machado claims the paper made the quote up. 

Trump on Friday entertained conspiracy theories bouncing around far-right websites about Machado having filmed a sex tape, as well as allegations that Clinton helped the Venezuelan become a U.S. citizen for the express purpose of attacking him at the debate.

Machado was photographed topless for Playboy and appeared in a Spanish reality TV show that featured a risqué scene of her in bed with a male contestant.

But fact-checkers have rated claims that she appeared in a sex tape as “mostly false,” saying that searches for Machado porn videos turn up women who look like her but are someone else.

Democrats are having a field day with the ordeal.

“I’m almost @realDonaldTrump’s age, so get the urge to get up in the middle of the night, but impt safety tip: don’t reach for your phone,” tweeted Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

And the largest super-PAC supporting Clinton, Priorities USA, resurfaced a campaign ad it ran several months earlier featuring an actor playing Trump tweeting and “zinging another loser” at 3 a.m. in the White House while ignoring an urgent call on a red ringing phone.

Trump responded over Twitter: “For those few people knocking me for tweeting at three o’clock in the morning, at least you know I will be there, awake, to answer the call!”
Ben Carson’s former campaign manager, Barry Bennett, who has advised the Trump campaign in the past, said the controversy won’t move the needle on votes but that the opportunity cost for Trump can’t be overstated.

“It’s sucking up time and time management at this point in the race is critical,” Bennett said. “By tweeting last night, he just guaranteed another day of coverage when he should be telling voters he understands all the problems they face.” 

—Ben Kamisar and Scott Wong contributed.

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