Clin­ton fo­cuses on foe’s flaws

Drops sunny pitch to cast a scripted Trump in dark light

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Michael A. Me­moli and Noah Bier­man Noah Bier­man re­ported from Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Los An­ge­les Times’ Me­lanie Ma­son in Jack­sonville, Fla., and As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.

WIN­TER­VILLE, N.C. — In the fi­nal days of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign has a con­sis­tent theme: Don­ald Trump.

There was a point at which Clin­ton’s ad­vis­ers had en­vi­sioned a more pos­i­tive end­ing, but in the fi­nal days of a tight race, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee has backed away from em­pha­siz­ing a sunny mes­sage of in­clu­sive­ness. In­stead, she has dwelled re­peat­edly on a vi­sion of a dark fu­ture of Amer­ica un­der her op­po­nent.

On Mon­day, the Democrats launched their ver­sion of Lyn­don John­son’s “Daisy” ad from the 1964 cam­paign, an apoc­a­lyp­tic warn­ing about the dire con­se­quences of turn­ing over Amer­ica’s nu­clear ar­se­nal to an untested and short-tem­pered leader — in this case Trump in­stead of Barry Gold­wa­ter.

Tues­day brought the cam­paign’s first tele­vi­sion ad fea­tur­ing Trump’s graphic boast, caught on an “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” video, about how he would grope women he found at­trac­tive and get away with it be­cause of his fame.

And Thurs­day, at a rally here, Clin­ton was in­tro­duced by Mae Wig­gins, whose ap­pli­ca­tion years ago to rent an apart­ment at a de­vel­op­ment owned by the Trump fam­ily was re­jected — an in­ci­dent that be­came part of a racial dis­crim­i­na­tion case against Trump and his fa­ther.

Trump, said Clin­ton, Don­ald Trump speaks at a rally in Con­cord, N.C., Thurs­day. Hil­lary Clin­ton, with Phar­rell Wil­liams, ar­rives at Raleigh-Durham In­ter­na­tional Air­port. has spent his en­tire cam­paign of­fer­ing “a dog whis­tle to his most hate­ful sup­port­ers.” She cited the en­dorse­ment of Trump ear­lier this week by the of­fi­cial news­let­ter of the Ku Klux Klan as proof those sig­nals were be­ing heard “loudly and clearly.”

“They said it’s about pre­serv­ing white iden­tity, and they placed their faith and hope in him,” she said, not­ing the en­dorse­ment was writ­ten un­der Trump’s slo­gan, “Make Amer­ica great again.”

“You have to ask,” she added, “do any of us have a place in Trump’s Amer­ica?”

Clin­ton en­listed Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s help urg­ing those vot­ers to the polls and light­ing a fire un­der other Democrats, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple. Speak­ing to stu­dents at Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity in Miami, Obama told vot­ers now was the time to get se­ri­ous about the choice.

“This isn’t a joke. This isn’t ‘ Sur­vivor.’ This isn’t ‘The Bach­e­lorette.’ ’ he said, taunt­ing the for­mer re­al­ity TV star. “This counts.”

Trump, for his part, has dis­played a con­certed ef­fort in re­cent days to re­main dis­ci­plined, stick to his stump speech and not veer into the sort of per­ilous im­pro­vi­sa­tions that of­ten have side­tracked his cam­paign mes­sage.

Speak­ing in a cav­ernous eques­trian cen­ter in Jack­sonville, Fla., he stayed with a script that com­bined prom­ises of a mus­cu­lar eco­nomic resur­gence with an ex­ag­ger­ated recita­tion of con­tro­ver­sies that have dogged Clin­ton.

He al­leged the FBI was “in­ves­ti­gat­ing how Hil­lary Clin­ton put the of­fice of sec­re­tary of State up for sale in a vi­o­la­tion of fed- eral law” — an as­ser­tion that goes well be­yond any­thing the bureau is known to be do­ing.

And in an ef­fort to ap­peal to vot­ers’ mem­o­ries of scan­dals dur­ing Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s ten­ure, he lamented “here we go again with Clin­ton — with the im­peach­ment and the prob­lems. She’s likely to be un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for many, many years.”

Clin­ton has re­peat­edly called on sup­port­ers to imag­ine what Amer­ica would look like un­der a Pres­i­dent Trump.

“I would frankly rather be here talk­ing about nearly any­thing else,” she said at a rally ear­lier this week.

“But I can’t just talk about all the good things we want to do, be­cause peo­ple are mak­ing up their minds,” Clin­ton said. “This is a con­se­quen­tial choice, so we’ve got to talk about some­thing that frankly is painful.”

The steely, if re­luc­tant, fo­cus on her ri­val’s flaws rather than her strengths re­flects dif­fi­cult truths that have vexed Clin­ton through­out the race.

She has had lim­ited suc­cess in chang­ing nega­tive voter per­cep­tions of her, an ef­fort that was com­pli­cated again last week by the FBI’s eleventh-hour re­newed scru­tiny of her emails as sec­re­tary of state.

That dif­fi­culty, com­bined with Trump’s un­chal­lenged abil­ity to dom­i­nate pub­lic at­ten­tion, has caused Clin­ton to ac­cept as in­evitable that her best path to vic­tory in­volves keep­ing vot­ers fo­cused on her ri­val.

Clin­ton aides deny that her fo­cus on the nega­tive is in re­ac­tion to the FBI’s re­newed scru­tiny of her emails.

And they in­sist that Clin­ton will re­turn to mak­ing a more af­fir­ma­tive case for her can­di­dacy as Elec­tion Day grows closer.

On Thurs­day they an­nounced that the cam­paign’s clos­ing rally Mon­day night would fea­ture not only Clin­ton, her hus­band and daugh­ter, but Obama and the first lady.

At that rally, in Philadel­phia, where she ac­cepted the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion in July, Clin­ton will out­line how she in­tends to keep pro­mot­ing t he “Amer­i­can ideals of progress, in­clu­sion, equal­ity and strength that our founders en­shrined in our Con­sti­tu­tion,” the cam­paign said.



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