A Look at Trump's Scorched Earth Campaign in the Home Stretch of the Election

It seems like there's mud-slinging to come.

ByMeghan Keneally and Tom Liddy
October 13, 2016, 5:30 PM

— -- There is a little less than a month left of the tumultuous 2016 presidential race, and Donald Trump, facing a scandal about allegedly inappropriately touching women, a deficit in the polls and abandonment from party officials, has gone on the offensive, talking in apocalyptic terms about the survival of the country should Hillary Clinton be elected.

His scorched-earth campaign has included not only going after his Democratic opponent as a criminal who should be locked up for her email scandal, but her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as an abuser of women and much of the Republican leadership as weak-kneed hacks who wither at the first sense of trouble.

He has also launched an all-out war against the "rigged" media, which he says is just an extension of the Clinton political machine, threatening to sue the New York Times for printing a story about claims from two women that Trump touched them inappropriately.

Trump has blasted the allegations as false and said that he has "substantial" evidence that they are so.

"Current trends and events suggest that the tone of the campaign between now and Election Day will be harshly negative. I believe that's the case in part because Mr. Trump knows his chances of expanding his support at this point are virtually nil so his only real shot at victory are to tear down his opponent," said Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"Every time I say it can't get worse it gets worse, so I've stopped saying it can't get worse," he said.

And ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts predicts "it could be an awful three-and-a-half weeks ahead for the American people and for us to watch what's likely to come forward,"

Trump's Plan

Trump famously says that he doesn't like to telegraph his strategy -- he lambasted the current administration for publicly announcing when it intended to pull out of Iraq -- but he has dropped hints about his plans in the closing days of the election.

After a video surfaced of Trump bragging more than a decade ago about his ability to grope women as "a star," he faced a backlash not only from women and Democrats, but from Republicans as well.

Trump apologized for the remarks, which he also dismissed as "locker room banter," but went on the offensive against former President Bill Clinton and his history with women.

Amid suggestions that more tapes existed with Trump making controversial remarks, the real estate magnate said that he would keep talking about the Clintons.

"If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we'll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things," said Trump said in Pennsylvania.

And Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon reportedly said: "We're going to turn him into Bill Cosby," referring to Bill Clinton.

Trump was reportedly slated to be interviewed by Fox News' Sean Hannity on his show tonight, and four women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct were also scheduled to appear during the show. Trump has since reportedly backed out of the interview but no changes to the scheduled appearance of the women has been announced.

The four women who are going to appear on Hannity's show -- Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Kathy Shelton -- have previously spoken on behalf of Trump.

Broaddrick, Willey and Jones have all accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault or unwanted sexual advances decades ago. The former president has not been charged with a crime or admitted wrongdoing in Jones' civil case.

Trump held a press conference with the women ahead of the second presidential debate, then invited them as guests into the debate hall and referenced them while he was on stage.

It remains unknown who arranged the Hannity appearance.

Meanwhile, the campaign has been making fast changes in the past days and hours -- the most notable that is pulling its operations out of Virginia and putting them into other battleground states, according to two senior-level sources.

The move effectively concedes the contest there to Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, who represents the state.

Trump has events scheduled events in North Carolina on Oct. 14, New Hampshire and Maine the next day and Wisconsin and Grand Junction the days after that, according to his website.

Casting the Election in Existential Terms

Trump has upped the rhetoric in the last several campaign appearances, saying in West Palm Beach on Oct. 13 that the "survival" of the country depends on the election.

"This is a struggle for the survival of our nation," he said. "Believe me."

He has also cast himself as somewhat of a martyr for his supporters.

"They knew they would throw every lie they could at me. And my family. And my loved ones," he told the crowd. "They knew they would stop at nothing to try to stop me. But I never knew, as bad as it would be, I never knew it would be this vile. That it would be this bad. That it would be this vicious.

"Nevertheless, I take all of these slings and arrows gladly for you."

Trump added: "our great civilization here in America and across the civilized world, has come upon a moment of reckoning."

Trump has been saying recently that the deck is stacked against him, from the "rigged" media, which is a "political special interest no different than any lobbyist or other financial entity with a total political agenda" to Republican leadership that has turned its back on him instead of giving him support at a crucial time.

"This is not simply another four-year election," he said in West Palm Beach. "This is a crossroads in the history of our civilization. That will determine whether or not we, the people, reclaim control over our government.

Trump has warned that forces will try to steal the election and encouraged supporters to be observers at polling stations in an attempt to stop the "rigged system."

He has warned of a "rigged" general election, despite little or no evidence of voting fraud in the past several years, and rigged Democratic and Republican primaries.

"This election will determine whether we're 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," he said in West Palm Beach. "And our system is rigged. This is reality. You know it. They know it. I know it. And pretty much the whole world knows it. The establishment and their media enablers wield control over this nation through means that are very well known.

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