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A week on US campaign trail: Trump makes waves in last debate

Donald Trump sent shockwaves through the race for the White House by suggesting -- before next month's vote even takes place -- he may not accept the presidential election results if he loses.
 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump / Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump / Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Donald Trump sent shockwaves through the race for the White House by suggesting — before next month’s vote even takes place — he may not accept the presidential election results if he loses.

Hillary Clinton, gaining momentum, came out ahead in the two rivals’ last debate and Americans are now eager for one thing alone: to get one of the most bitter US electoral campaigns in history between two of its most unpopular candidates over with once and for all.

With just over two weeks to go before election day on November 8, here’s a brief overview of this week on the campaign trail:

– A third debate for the history books –

The third and last presidential debate on Wednesday had started out as Trump’s best performance on stage when going toe-to-toe against hyper-prepared Clinton, with him even managing to dodge some of her bait.

But then, with millions watching on television, the Republican White House candidate sailed into another political tempest, defiantly threatening not to recognize the outcome of the election and vowing “suspense” instead.

Clinton declared herself “appalled” by what she said was an attack on 240 years of US democracy.

President Barack Obama later weighed in, saying the comment “undermines our democracy.”

Trump backpedaled on Thursday, saying he would accept a “clear” result, but added: “I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.”

But the harm had already been done, adding to Republicans’ worries that not only are their chances of winning back the White House from Obama’s Democrats slipping away, there could also be significant impact on other races on the ballot, threatening the Republicans’ majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

– Barack, Michelle, Bill… All of Hillary’s surrogates out on the trail –

Clinton, who polls show has an increasingly solid lead nationally and an edge in several key battleground states, said she was “relieved and very grateful” after most analysts agreed she had won the third debate — along with the previous two.

In this final stretch, Clinton isn’t pulling any punches, with Democratic heavyweights stumping for her.

From Obama and his wife Michelle to Vice President Joe Biden, husband Bill Clinton, daughter Chelsea, once-bitter primary rival Bernie Sanders and vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine — all campaigned on her behalf this week in key states and even in Arizona, historically a solidly Republican state but one that may now be within reach for Clinton.

– In Utah, third-party candidate upstaging Trump –

Three months ago, Evan McMullin was an unknown figure. But this independent 40-year-old candidate who entered the race only in August is shaking up traditionally Republican Utah, where he is surging against Trump.

An Emerson poll this week found the ex-CIA agent, who is Mormon, scored 31 percent support, against 27 percent for Trump and 24 percent for Clinton in the state.

“In a year where Americans have lost faith in the candidates of both major parties, it’s time for a generation of new leadership to step up,” McMullin said on his website.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing, and America deserves much better than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us.”

If he wins in Utah, it would be the first time since 1964 that a Republican loses this conservative state, where 62 percent of the population is affiliated with the Mormon Church.

– Election Day cannot come too soon –

Many Americans made their choice a long time ago in this brutal campaign, and have major election fatigue after months of insults and personal attacks.

And most voters like neither Trump nor Clinton.

The campaign has made its mark. Some 52 percent of adults said they were very or relatively stressed by this electoral season, according to the American Psychological Association.

Democrats and Republicans, for once, agreed: 55 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans said the campaign was a source of stress. They also largely said that social networks — with their constant streams of updates — add to the stress.

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