Clinton Cashes In on Trump's Bad Week

Clinton Cashes In on Trump's Bad Week
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Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid got a boost from Donald Trump this week, an assessment widely shared even among Republicans, including some who recently hopped aboard the vote-Clinton bandwagon.

With Trump’s national poll numbers slipping behind Clinton's, and the GOP nominee compelled to explain his most recent eyebrow-raising assertions that Clinton is a “co-founder” of the terror group ISIS, the Democratic nominee skipped past her own vulnerabilities and turned up the heat on her adversary. 

Trump sparked a multi-day political firestorm over his veiled remark at a rally that to some listeners suggested he invited Second Amendment supporters to stop Clinton from appointing liberal justices to the Supreme Court, perhaps through violence. Trump later said he meant that gun-rights supporters wield political clout.

During a Detroit speech Thursday that compared Trump’s economic proposals to her own, Clinton sought to be the antithesis of flashy with her familiar embrace of better national roads and bridges (and the construction jobs created), along with what she called her “serious, steady leadership.”

While Trump was busy digging himself out of rhetorical ditches, Clinton was presenting herself to independent and moderate GOP voters as a sort of hard-hat problem solver intent on filling America’s proverbial potholes.

“I just don’t think bullying and insults are going to get things done,” Clinton said Thursday while rebutting Trump’s own Detroit economic speech, which he delivered Monday.

The Republican nominee’s tax-cutting proposals and “outlandish Trumpian ideas” would benefit the Trump family, Clinton argued (albeit ignoring her own millionaire-beneficiary status).

“He wants America to work for him and his friends,” she said.

From this week until Election Day, Clinton hopes to hammer home contrasts between her temperament and proposals to benefit working families, as measured against Trump’s unpredictable behavior and proposals that would bolster the rich.

Clinton plans to release her most recent tax return, while suggesting that Trump ducks behind what he says is an IRS audit, about which no official corroboration has been publicly disclosed, despite repeated media inquiries. She and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine tell audiences the self-proclaimed billionaire is hiding something, perhaps that he is not as wealthy as he claims, pays no federal taxes, or is stingy with his charitable giving.

Clinton’s campaign strategy is not to kick back and count on the real estate mogul to implode, Democrats said, but rather to press a multi-faceted and reinforcing narrative that Trump is a loose-lipped, self-involved hazard to the economy and national security, including among potential GOP skeptics who never imagined casting a presidential ballot for a Democrat, a woman or a Clinton.

The array of Republican elected officials, former candidates and national security experts who now say they will vote for Clinton gives undecided GOP voters persuasive cover to follow suit.

Trump sent shivers through the Republican National Committee Thursday when he said he is prepared to lose the election. 

"I'm a truth teller. All I do is tell the truth. And if at the end of 90 days, I've fallen short because I'm somewhat politically incorrect, even though I'm supposed to be the smart one and even though I'm supposed to have a lot of good ideas, it's OK. I go back to a very good way of life," Trump said during a CNBC telephone interview.

The former secretary of state and Kaine, her Virginia vice presidential pick, are maintaining brisk August travel schedules that cycle through battleground states to court voters, and to raise money, including from contributors in red states. On Monday, Clinton will stump with help from Vice President Joe Biden in his hometown of Scranton, Pa., which is where her late father, Hugh Rodham, was born.

Clinton is touting her economic plan and skewering Trump via $13.6 million in television ads broadcast during the Olympics. The investment aims to locate American viewers of all ages as they watch the popular Summer Games. Trump has not spent a dime on TV ads.

Online, Clinton’s team this week pursued small-dollar donations by repeating Trump’s “Second Amendment” remarks to Democratic supporters. “It doesn’t matter what he later says he meant,” wrote Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook. “Donald Trump must lose this election.”

The GOP candidate’s penchant for attracting media attention, not all of it planned or positive, favored Clinton this week by overshadowing damaging reports describing email evidence of a Clinton Foundation donor request posed to then-State Department aides. The campaign and the donor referenced in the email communications denied any favors or special access involving Clinton or any State Department officials.

CNN, citing one unnamed source, reported that unidentified FBI field agents approached the Justice Department with a request in early 2015 to investigate Clinton Foundation ties to the State Department, but were turned down because a previous probe produced insufficient evidence.

“There might not have been a positive headline about Hillary Clinton since the end of the Democratic convention, but it doesn’t matter,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California and a veteran adviser during four GOP presidential campaigns.

“Clinton has not done a particularly great job for herself, but the good news for her is that Trump has been doing a particularly effective job of that all on his own,” he told RealClearPolitics.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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