WASHINGTON • Republican nominee Donald Trump today (Monday, 3pm and 6pm, US time; Tuesday, 3am and 6am, Singapore time) is expected to start driving a contrast between how he and former president Bill Clinton and Mrs Hillary Clinton made their fortunes as he attempts to recover from an exceptionally bad week in his campaign to be president.
Aides said he planned to argue at rallies in Colorado that he built a global real estate empire and employed thousands of people, while the Clintons got rich delivering paid speeches to financial institutions and other corporate interests.
"We're going to shine the spotlight very brightly on how the Clintons made their money," senior adviser Jason Miller said.
He's a genius - absolute genius. This was a perfectly legal application of the tax code, and he would've been a fool not to take advantage of it.
FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, on Mr Trump being a genius.
FIXING TAX LAWS
I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.
MR DONALD TRUMP, on the mess that the federal tax code is in.
"They were so broke when they left the White House that they couldn't pay either of their mortgages, they haven't invented anything, they haven't won Powerball, they haven't so much as billed a single hour of legal work, yet they're worth a couple hundred million dollars."
The worst week of Mr Trump's presidential campaign began with a widely criticised debate performance last Monday and ended with a bombshell report that he could have avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years.
In between, he lashed out at a Latina beauty queen in a series of 5am tweets, faced opposition from conservative editorial boards, went after Mr Clinton's history of infidelity while refusing to discuss his own, was found to have appeared in a Playboy soft-core porn film, mocked Mrs Clinton's recent battle with pneumonia and told a crowd she "could actually be crazy".
The best opportunity for him to rebound before a national audience is likely to be next Sunday, when he debates her for the second of three times, at Washington University in St Louis. Ahead of the first debate, he refused to do mock debates and did not study as rigorously as her. In preparation for the St Louis debate, he has blocked off time in his schedule this week.
He spent Sunday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and other advisers, as well as family. They helped coach Mr Trump on the town-hall format in St Louis where, unlike in the first debate, the candidates will move freely onstage and field questions.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll on Sunday said 53 per cent of Americans saw Mrs Clinton as the winner of last Monday's debate, compared to 18 per cent for Mr Trump.
The political talk shows on Sunday were dominated by discussion of The New York Times report, based on portions of Mr Trump's 1995 tax returns mailed to the newspaper anonymously, that showed he may have taken advantage of special rules for real estate investors that legally allowed him to use a US$916 million loss to offset US$50 million a year in taxable income for as many as 18 years.
Mr Trump's year-by-year returns would show how much he paid in federal income taxes, but he has refused to release them. For four decades, all presidential nominees have released years' worth of tax returns, including Mrs Clinton.
Mr Trump's allies mounted a vigorous defence on Sunday by arguing that the revelation in the newspaper was proof of the businessman's "genius".
"He's a genius - absolute genius," Mr Giuliani said on ABC's This Week. "This was a perfectly legal application of the tax code and he would've been a fool not to take advantage of it."
Mr Christie, who chairs Mr Trump's presidential transition project, proclaimed on Fox News Sunday that "this is actually a very, very good story for Donald Trump".
"What it shows is what an absolute mess the federal tax code is, and that's why Donald Trump is the person best positioned to fix it," the governor added. "There's no one who's showed more genius in their way to move around the tax code."
While not admitting to paying little or nothing in taxes, Mr Trump himself boasted on Twitter that he was an expert on tax law after the Times story appeared.
"I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them," he wrote.
The task of generating needed momentum for the Republican ticket will fall to his vice-presidential running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, tonight (Wednesday morning, Singapore time) when he debates Mrs Clinton's running mate, Virginian Senator Tim Kaine, for the first and only time at Lockwood University in rural Farmville, Virginia.
WASHINGTON POST, BLOOMBERG