Candidates stage tense debate in St. Louis; local surrogates put best face forward

In the angriest presidential debate in recent history, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stood on a stage Sunday at Washington University in St. Louis and presented two vastly different plans for America’s future while savaging one another’s pasts.

Afterward, Missouri campaign surrogates for both candidates tried to put their best face forward about the debate.

Trump, the Republican real estate mogul, was on the hot-seat almost immediately after the start of the 90-minute exchange over a 2005 video released 48 hours earlier in which he was caught bragging about his sexual aggression toward women.

Clinton also came under fire over her mishandling of official emails while she was secretary of state under questioning from Trump.

After Trump’s video was released, more than two-dozen prominent Republican politicians – among them, U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner of Missouri – withdrew their earlier endorsements of Trump.

Rep. Jason Smith, a Republican from Salem, was among those who remained in Trump’s corner, and he offered an assessment after the debate Sunday.

“The first 20 minutes started out a little rocky,” Smith said. “But the next hour and 10 minutes was focused on a lot of policy and issues that Americans are really paying a lot of attention to: health care, taxation, the Supreme Court vacancies. So I thought that was pretty good.”

But Smith’s colleague, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, had a much dimmer view of Trump’s performance.

“Donald Trump spoke tonight as if he’s an expert on African American life, and he’s done it throughout this campaign,” said Cleaver, D-Kansas City. “You know, they’re getting shot walking down the street, they’re getting raped, it’s hard for them to live, and it’s miserable for them. And in fact, he said as Americans are worse off now than ever in their history – we were enslaved for 300 years in this country.”

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Public Radio

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