PORTSMOUTH (New Hampshire) • Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has challenged his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to a drug test before their next debate, suggesting she was "pumped up" on performance-enhancing drugs, in a new twist to the brutal White House race.
The unsubstantiated attack came as a new poll out yesterday showed Mrs Clinton with a four-point lead over Mr Trump, suggesting that he still holds a solid core of voters despite a week of snowballing claims of sexual misconduct that have thrown his campaign into chaos.
He has trampled all conventions in his treatment of his opponent, vowing if elected to jail her over her e-mail practices as secretary of state - and making "Lock Her Up" a rallying cry for his fired-up supporters.
His campaign has actively fuelled right-wing conspiracy theories about her health, seizing on her bout of pneumonia last month to suggest she is hiding a major health problem, and is unfit for office.
In the latest attack, levelled without proof, he suggested she had taken drugs during their last debate, and called for tests before their final duel on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
"At the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up... At the end, it was like, 'Take me down', she could barely reach her car," the 70-year-old told a rally in Portsmouth on Saturday.
"Athletes, they make them take a drug test. I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate. Why don't we do that?" he said.
The billionaire has spent the week claiming the media and a "global elite" are working against him.
"The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president," he charged in New Hampshire.
Ten women have now come forward to say they were the victims of unwanted advances by Mr Trump.
His latest accuser, 63-year-old Cathy Heller, told The Guardian that he had grabbed and kissed her against her wishes during their first and only meeting 20 years ago.
He denies the allegations, insisting in one of a barrage of tweets to his 12 million followers: "Nothing ever happened with any of these women. Totally made-up nonsense to steal the election. Nobody has more respect for women than me!"
The controversy apparently has had little effect on Mr Trump's support: an ABC News/Washington Post poll out yesterday shows Mrs Clinton leading 47-43 per cent among likely voters, a small change from 46-44 in a survey done ahead of the first presidential debate.
The poll was taken after the Oct 7 release of audio from 2005 in which Mr Trump bragged he could get away with grabbing women's crotches because he's famous.
Mrs Clinton has scaled back her campaign commitments, keeping a low profile as her rival battles the incendiary allegations.
But her camp issued a swift response to his latest comments on the election, accusing him of seeking to erode public faith in the vote.
"This election will have record turnout, because voters see through Donald Trump's shameful attempts to undermine an election weeks before it happens," her campaign manager Robby Mook said.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rebuked Mr Trump over his comments questioning the validity of the election process.
"Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the Speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity," said a statement issued by his spokesman AshLee Strong.
In the latest example of the dissension within the Republican Party, Mr Trump has severed ties with the party chairman of the battleground state of Ohio, accusing him of "duplicity'' and of not fully supporting the campaign.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG