Donald Trump is seeking to quell concerns that he lacks the discipline or policy know-how to make a competent president, even as the list of fellow Republicans deeming him unfit for the Oval Office grows.
Maine senator Susan Collins, a moderate long wary of Mr Trump, became the latest Republican to announce her intent not to vote for her party’s nominee.
Days after rebuking Mr Trump for insinuating Somali refugees in Maine were dangerous, Ms Collins said she had thought “long and hard” about whether she was obligated to support the nominee and decided she could not.
“With the passage of time, I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologise,” Ms Collins wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
Ms Collins wrote that she supports neither party’s nominee, though has previously said she is open to voting for Hillary Clinton.
The defection from a respected senator added to a chorus of Republican voices saying they can not back Mr Trump.
Some 50 Republican former national security officials signed an open letter calling Mr Trump the most reckless candidate in history, prompting a counter-attack from Mr Trump, who said the signers share blame with Ms Clinton for making the world “a mess” and fuelling the formation of Islamic State (IS).
The renewed focus on Republican discord was not the theme Mr Trump hoped to emphasise, especially as fresh polls appear to show Ms Clinton widening her lead. However, Mr Trump suggested there would be no dramatic change of strategy to regain control of the race.
“I think it’s just, you know, steadiness,” Mr Trump told Fox Business. “And it’s just doing what I’m doing.”
A day earlier, Mr Trump had tried in a major policy speech at the Detroit Economic Club to turn the page on a dreadful stretch in his campaign by unveiling a revamped economic plan centred on far-reaching tax cuts.
Ms Clinton quickly dismissed Mr Trump’s proposal, which would reduce to three the number of income tax brackets and cut corporate taxes to 15%. She accused Mr Trump of offering “super big tax breaks” to huge companies and rich people and disputed his claim that she wanted the middle class to pay more.
Donald Trump has been speaking in Fayetteville, NC, for 26 minutes -- and a steady stream of people are leaving. pic.twitter.com/6Ywk0UFdrS— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) August 9, 2016
“I have said throughout this campaign I am not going to raise the taxes on the middle class, but with your help we are going to raise it on the wealthy,” said Ms Clinton.
The two candidates are headed towards a trio of televised showdowns. Ms Clinton’s campaign chairman announced that she would take part in all three debates that the Commission on Presidential Debates is organising.
Mr Trump has said he wants to debate Ms Clinton but has complained that two of the debates are scheduled during NFL games, claiming Democrats had “rigged” the schedule.
Ms Clinton, working to shore up a path to victory in the electoral college, was focusing intently on Florida. She toured a Miami health clinic yesterday to discuss the zika virus before holding fundraisers in the evening.
Mr Trump, too, had his eye on the most competitive states. A day after campaigning in Michigan, he planned a pair of rallies in North Carolina.
Debates and tax policy were just a few areas where the White House hopefuls were trading accusations. Mr Trump tweeted this week that “many people are saying that the Iranians killed the scientist who helped the US because of Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails”, referring to an Iranian nuclear scientist executed for spying for the US.
Ms Clinton’s spokesman tweeted back that Mr Trump was making it up.
In his economic speech, Mr Trump revised his previous tax plan, increasing the rate he said the highest-earning Americans should pay.
He also unveiled a new proposal to allow parents to fully deduct the average cost of child care from their taxable income, while insisting that when he is president, “Americanism, not globalism, will be our new credo”.
Though Mr Trump argues his “America first” policies will return the economy to the boom era of a half-century ago, he said little about how he would equip workers to succeed, nor about how returning manufacturing to the US could prove costly for consumers.
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