PRESCOTT VALLEY, Arizona (AP) — Hillary Clinton appealed to voting mothers Tuesday outlining ways she hopes to curb gun violence as president and provide paid family leave and sick days for struggling working moms. Donald Trump tried to blame his opponent about revelations that his massive financial losses could have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for years.
Clinton, appearing at a family town hall outside Philadelphia, said, "It should not be so hard to be a young parent. And it should not be so hard on the other end of the age spectrum to take care of your loved one."
She was making a case to suburban female voters who have sometimes backed Republicans in past presidential races.
Trump, meanwhile, sought to shore up support in deep-red Arizona during a challenging stretch for his campaign that aides hoped would be steadied Tuesday night by a strong performance by his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in the vice presidential debate.
The celebrity businessman — who was also grappling with new allegations of boorish treatment of women and criticism of his comments about veterans' health — resorted to blaming Clinton for the tax code that could have allowed him to not pay taxes for nearly two decades after he apparently lost nearly $1 billion in 1995.
"Why didn't she ever try to change those so laws so I couldn't use them?" asked Trump in the Republican-stronghold of Prescott Valley, before suggesting that Clinton's desire to protect her rich donors prevented her from passing any legislation while she was in the Senate.
Trump has refused to release his tax returns. His tax reform proposals do not call for changing the provision that would have allowed him to avoid paying.
He attempted to change the campaign conversation by seizing on former President Bill Clinton's comments describing the nation's current health system as "the craziest thing in the world."
"Can you imagine what he went through after making that statement? He went through hell," said Trump. "But you know, honestly, there have been many nights when he's gone through hell with Hillary."
Despite frequently depicting Bill Clinton as an abuser of women, Trump said he wanted "to thank him, honestly, for being honest" about Obamacare.
Asked about her husband's comment on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said she would attempt to "fix what is broken and keep what works" if elected president, adding that Republicans want to repeal the entire health care program. She also condemned Trump's recent comments about veterans, in which he suggested that soldiers who suffer from mental health issues might not be as strong as those who don't.
She said Trump's comments "are not just ignorant, they're harmful."
Trump's campaign said Monday his comments were being misconstrued.
There were signs Trump's troubles were trickling down to other Republicans on the November ballot.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican running for re-election, stumbled on Monday night when she was asked whether she considers her party's nominee to be a role model for children. Ayotte, who is in a close race with Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, initially answered "absolutely," but then backtracked in a statement afterward saying she had changed her mind.
"I misspoke tonight," the statement said. "While I would hope all of our children would aspire to be president, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have set a good example, and I wouldn't hold up either of them as role models for my kids."
Ayotte's trouble answering the question underscores Trump's trouble with independent, moderate and college-educated women who are turned off Trump.
Those were precisely the type of voters Clinton was seeking to connect with in suburban Philadelphia's Delaware County, where President Barack Obama earned 60 percent of the vote in both the 2008 and 2012 election but has often served as a swing area in the battleground state.
During the town hall, 15-year-old Brennan Leach, the daughter of Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach, told Clinton that "body image" was a major issue for girls her age at school, adding, "I see with my own eyes the damage Donald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look."
Responding to how she would "undo some of that damage," Clinton thanked Leach as the crowd cheered, saying she was "so proud of you for asking that question." She said "it's shocking when women are called names."
First lady Michelle Obama joined in, assailing Trump at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina. She said, "The presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are."
Thomas reported from Haverford, Pennsylvania. Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Kathleen Hennessey and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report from Washington.
On Twitter, follow Jonathan Lemire at http://www.twitter.com/JonLemire and Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC