Hillary Clinton thought she would borrow a leaf from Donald Trump's book. Instead, she reached for a dictionary of insults and flung "half" of her presidential rival's supporters in a "basket of deplorables".
"Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic -- you name it," charged the Democrat at a New York fundraiser kindling a firestorm.
Then as the controversy blew in her face, Clinton "regretted" saying "half" in a "grossly generalistic" way, yet doubled down on the insinuation as her surrogates joined the chorus.
She had viciously attacked millions of hard working Americans by putting them in baskets as if they were "objects and not human beings", a "deeply shocked and alarmed" Trump charged coming down on her like a tonne of bricks.
"Was it her 47 percent moment?" wondered the pundits, recalling 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney's costly comments that 47 percent of the people dependent upon government will vote for rival Barack Obama "no matter what".
Trump called it far worse than that as an "overheated" Clinton left a 9/11 ceremony at ground zero early and wobbled and helped by three secret service guys stumbled into her van -- and another controversy over her health.
Less than two hours later she emerged unaided from her daughter Chelsea's New York apartment and waved to the waiting media saying "I'm feeling great" and hugged a "conveniently" waiting little girl in what critics called a staged event.
As she went off the campaign trail to recover from a bout of "walking pneumonia", hubby Bill inadvertently stirred more controversy saying Hillary had fainted "frequently -- well not frequently, rarely -- but on more than one occasion, over the last many, many years".
More than her repeated bouts of cough -- that she jokingly attributed to her allergy for Trump -- Clinton's failed efforts to "power through" her illness fanned renewed feelings of distrust and suspicion about the former secretary of state.
"Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia," said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Obama's presidential campaigns. But "what's the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?" he asked on twitter.
Trump, who has previously raised questions about Clinton's health and stamina, atypically wished her well and instead acting very 'presidential' reached out to African Americans and women and the jobless.
He finally conceded that Obama was born in America, went to a black church in Flint, Michigan, unveiled a "child care tax" plan and promised four percent growth with his prescription to shore up the economy.
Then as Clinton returned to the campaign trail, Colin Powell, a former Republican secretary of state, went ballistic over "Hillary's mafia" trying to pin on him the blame for her never-ending email scandal.
"Everything HRC touches, she kind of screws up with Hubris," said an angry Powell in a leaked email to a friend. "For good reason she comes across as sleazy," added the first and only black former defence chief in another email.
He did not spare Trump either. Calling him a "national disgrace" and an "international pariah", the general wrote to CNN's Fareed Zakaria in December 2015 that "you guys are playing his game, you are his oxygen".
Meanwhile, with health concerns taking centre stage, both candidates released selective medical information about themselves.
Fast food-loving Trump did so with elan on reality TV "The Dr, Oz Show", admitting he was overweight at 236 pounds and would like to lose at least 15 pounds.
Clinton's doctor too proclaimed her healthy "other than a sinus and ear infection and her recently diagnosed pneumonia" -- leaving aside a history of falls and a concussion back in 2012. In sum, one was "fat", the other just "exhausted".
But the choice was stark, suggested Maureen Dowd, author of "The Year of Voting Dangerously".
Trapped between two candidates with the highest recorded unfavourables, voters "were veering between anxiety over Trump and depression over Hillary," said the New York Times columnist.
Meanwhile, with Trump catching up and even winning Ohio, "the mother of all swing states", by 5 points in a new poll, Democrats worried if Hillary Clinton would fall through the enthusiasm gap between the two parties.
But Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and a Clinton supporter, offered bipartisan help with his new book, "Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for the Unaroused Voter".
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