Lisa Lerer and Steve Peoples

RALEIGH, N.C.: A defensive Donald Trump gave Hillary Clinton plenty of fresh material for the next phase of her presidential campaign on Tuesday, choosing to publicly reopen and relitigate some of her most damaging attacks.

The day after his first general election debate, Trump blamed the moderator, a bad microphone and anyone but himself for his performance. Next time, he threatened, he might get more personal and make a bigger political issue of former President Bill Clinton’s marital infidelities.

Things are already getting plenty personal. On Monday night, Trump brushed off Clinton’s debate claim that he’d once shamed a former Miss Universe winner for her weight. But then he dug deeper the next day — extending the controversy over what was one of his most negative debate night moments.

“She gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem. We had a real problem,” Trump told Fox and Friends about Alicia Machado, the 1996 winner of the pageant he once owned.

The comments were reminiscent of previous times when Trump has attacked private citizens in deeply personal terms. Trump’s latest comments about Machado were striking in that they came just as he was working to broaden his appeal among minority voters and women — key demographic groups he’s struggling to win.

“I watched her very carefully, and I was also holding back,” Trump said of Clinton, reflecting on the debate at an evening rally Tuesday in Melbourne, Fla. “I didn’t want to do anything to embarrass her.”

Clinton aides on Tuesday acknowledged they’d laid a trap for Trump.

“He seemed unable to handle that big stage,” said Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta. “By the end, with kind of snorting and the water gulping and leaning on the lectern that he just seemed really out of gas.”

Clinton interrupted a discussion of foreign policy in the final moments of the debate to remind viewers that Trump had called Machado “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” A video featuring Machado, a Clinton supporter, was released less than two hours after the debate finished.

Aiming to capitalize on Trump’s renewed focus on a woman’s weight, Clinton’s campaign also dispatched Machado to tell reporters how she spent years struggling with eating disorders after being humiliated publicly by Trump.

Both campaigns knew the first debate could mark a turning point six weeks before Election Day with Trump and Clinton locked in an exceedingly close race.

Record viewership

The showdown was the most-watched presidential debate ever, with 84 million viewers.

The Nielsen company said the viewership, over 13 different networks, toppled a record that had stood for 36 years. The previous record for presidential debate viewership was the 80.6 million people who saw the only debate in 1980 between incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter and his Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.

Clinton moved quickly to capitalize on her performance, launching new attacks on Trump’s failure to release his tax returns and profiting from the subprime mortgage crisis.

As Trump courted Hispanic voters in Miami, Clinton hammered on an allegation she’d leveled the night before: that he is refusing to release his returns because he goes years without paying any federal taxes. “That makes me smart,” was Trump’s coy response in the debate, but on Tuesday, Clinton insisted it was nothing to brag about: “If not paying taxes makes him smart what does that make all the rest of us?”

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday praised Trump’s debate performance, saying he showed he can “go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton.” Ryan said Trump “gave a unique Donald Trump response to the status quo ... I think he passed a number of thresholds.”

Trump’s campaign aides had worked hard in recent weeks to keep him on message — and away from personal attacks — persuading him to use teleprompters and reach out to minority audiences.

Their moderate success in scripting Trump came to a halt on Tuesday. Though he insisted he’d done “very well,” Trump accused moderator Lester Holt of going harder on him than Clinton. He insisted he had “no sniffles” and no allergies despite the #snifflegate speculation that had exploded on social media. He suggested he’d been given a microphone with lower volume than Clinton’s.

Her cheerful reaction: “Anybody who complained about the microphone is not having a good night.”

The Trump campaign plans to spend $100 million on television advertising before Election Day, spokesman Jason Miller told the Associated Press. Trump did not address his criticism of Machado as he faced Hispanic voters in a small theater blocks from Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. In rather subdued tones, he only briefly addressed his debate performance.

“It was an interesting evening certainly. Big league. Definitely big league,” Trump said. “I really enjoyed it.”