Work­ing the crowds in Ohio

On La­bor Day, two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates fo­cus on one topic in the key state: Don­ald Trump.

The Daily Herald - - NATION & WORLD - By Cath­leen Decker

CLEVE­LAND — The fi­nal sprint of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion be­gan Mon­day with abun­dant clar­ity about what will dom­i­nate the next 63 days: defin­ing Don­ald Trump.

Hillary Clin­ton’s kick­off event on the day that tra­di­tion­ally has opened the most in­tense part of the elec­tion sea­son was dom­i­nated by crit­i­cisms of Trump, whom she at­tacked as un­qual­i­fied to be pres­i­dent.

Speak­ing in Cleve­land be­fore revel­ers at a hol­i­day pic­nic, Clin­ton seemed to ac­cept that the man who has dom­i­nated the cam­paign so far will con­tinue to do so un­til Amer­i­cans ren­der a de­ci­sion Nov. 8.

She barely touched on her own pro­pos­als, although she dis­played to the crowd a new book con­tain­ing them, fo­cus­ing in­stead on her crit­i­cism of the Repub­li­can.

She even jok­ingly blamed Trump for a hoarse throat that had her strug­gling through much of her speech.

“Ev­ery time I think of Don­ald Trump, I get al­ler­gic,” she quipped.

Trump, mean­time, cam­paigned south­west and south­east of her -- and also fo­cused largely on him­self. Speak­ing to re­porters, he de­clined to clear up con­fu­sion over his im­mi­gra­tion pro­pos­als and de­fended him­self against ac­cu­sa­tions that he’d sought to use a cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion to quash an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Florida into Trump Uni­ver­sity.

The joint fo­cus on Trump re­flects mul­ti­ple re­al­i­ties.

Both can­di­dates are ex­tremely un­pop­u­lar among vot­ers, na­tion­ally and in key states such as Ohio where the race re­mains close. Much as Clin­ton might pre­fer to spend more time de­tail­ing pol­icy po­si­tions and craft­ing a more pos­i­tive im­age for her­self, the swiftest route to the pres­i­dency may be in mak­ing the elec­tion a ref­er­en­dum on Trump, who many vot­ers be­lieve does not have the back­ground or tem­per­a­ment to serve as pres­i­dent.

More­over, crit­i­cism of Trump of­ten has pro­voked him into mak­ing a self-dam­ag­ing re­sponse — or, at min­i­mum, mir­ing him­self in top­ics that Clin­ton and her al­lies want vot­ers to con­sider.

Trump has reg­u­larly tried to put the spot­light on Clin­ton, of­ten in bit­ing terms, as when he called her “clue­less” about jobs Mon­day. But he in­vari­ably wan­ders back to fo­cus­ing on him­self.

Talk­ing to re­porters Mon­day, Trump mused aloud about whether the 2012 nom­i­nee, Mitt Rom­ney, had held as many events and press talks as he had. He boasted re­peat­edly about new polls show­ing him ahead in Ohio and New Hampshire, among other states, although the new sur­veys con­tra­dict al­most all other polling in those states.

Just the day be­fore, he had taken to Twitter — his fa­vorite medium — to pro­long a fight with a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor, Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, who rep­re­sents a state he needs to win and has ex­pressed doubts that he can sup­port the party’s nom­i­nee.

La­bor Day week­end doesn’t pos­sess the po­lit­i­cal heft it once did, be­fore cam­paigns aired ads all sum­mer long. But it re­mains a day that marks the be­gin­ning of more in­tense voter in­ter­est in the pres­i­den­tial race.

This year, the race has been ac­ri­mo­nious and nasty through the pri­maries to the present, giv­ing dis­con­tented vot­ers even more rea­son to check out. But with the first de­bate be­tween the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates oc­cur­ring this month, and early vot­ing start­ing shortly there­after in some states, the de­ci­sion sud­denly looms, and the op­tions for the can­di­dates to dra­mat­i­cally al­ter the race’s con­tours be­come more lim­ited.

Clin­ton’s cam­paign thrust was ev­i­dent through­out Mon­day as she; her vice pres­i­den­tial run­ning mate, Tim Kaine; her hus­band, Bill Clin­ton; Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, for­mer op­po­nent Bernie San­ders and a host of la­bor lead­ers fanned out across con­tested states in a uni­fied front.

The in­tent was to mar­shal vol­un­teers to knock on doors and reach out elec­tron­i­cally on be­half of Clin­ton, who from the start has pred­i­cated her cam­paign on a strat­egy of grind­ing out the vote.

That strat­egy re­lies on turn­ing out the Demo­cratic base Pres­i­dent Barack Obama nur­tured — young vot­ers, African-Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos, Asians — and adding to the ranks Clin­ton’s army of women and la­bor sup­port­ers and col­lege-ed­u­cated mod­er­ates turned off by Trump.

Clin­ton sup­port­ers took pains to counter any over­con­fi­dence.

“We’re go­ing to have to stay on our game,” said Cleve­land Mayor Frank Jack­son. “If any­one takes any­thing for granted, we’re go­ing to lose.”

Clin­ton, who as a pub­lic fig­ure has in­spired decades of op­po­si­tion, has not based her cam­paign on rap­tur­ous fealty; she does have rap­tur­ous fol­low­ers, but not enough of them to win. In­stead, she is re­ly­ing more on a shared al­liance among many vot­ers over lib­eral so­cial and eco­nomic goals.

But she seemed Mon­day to have cal­cu­lated that lengthy de­scrip­tions of her many pro­pos­als — which, she noted, would be pub­lished soon in the cam­paign’s new book “Stronger To­gether” — would not fully serve her pur­poses.

Thus her crit­i­cism of Trump cropped up even when she urged her au­di­ence to help her craft a man­date.

“We need to make sure we have an elec­tion that val­i­dates the kind of con­fi­dent fu­ture that will make life bet­ter for the peo­ple of Ohio,” she said, “and empty prom­ises and racist at­tacks won’t do that. It won’t get your fam­ily a job; it won’t keep our troops safe; it won’t heal the di­vides in Amer­ica.”

She added spe­cific crit­i­cisms of Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion plans and mocked him for en­gag­ing in a war of words with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto af­ter Trump’s visit to Mex­ico City last week.

“When you see that he can’t even go to an­other coun­try without get­ting into a pub­lic feud with the pres­i­dent, I think the an­swer is clear,” Clin­ton said. “Imag­ine him in a real cri­sis.”

Trump’s cam­paign has never been of the grind-it-out va­ri­ety; in all of the key states this year, his cam­paign lags hugely be­hind Clin­ton in terms of the tra­di­tional cam­paign mark­ers: of­fices to or­ga­nize vol­un­teers and dig­i­tal pro­grams to iden­tify and track vot­ers will­ing to cast bal­lots.

In­stead, the Trump cam­paign has been pow­ered by the can­di­date him­self, a strat­egy that worked in the pri­maries be­fore a nar­rower au­di­ence. Cam­paign of­fi­cials in­sist that he will lure those who in­fre­quently or rarely vote but who find kin­ship in his eco­nomic or cul­tural pro­pos­als. Those pro­pos­als re­main, in many cases, vague.

He said Mon­day, for ex­am­ple, that “jobs is the whole thing,” but he did not ex­plain to his au­di­ence at a sub­ur­ban Cleve­land Amer­i­can Le­gion post what he would do to bring back those lost to out­sourc­ing or au­to­ma­tion.

“It’s go­ing to be so vi­tal in this coun­try to bring back jobs. Our jobs have been taken like Grant took Rich­mond,” Trump said in a Civil War anal­ogy.

“We have never had a case like this be­fore, and it’s get­ting worse and worse and worse. And we passed plant af­ter plant af­ter plant where there were no jobs. Where it’s just gone, it’s gone.”

EVAN VUCCI / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump shakes hands dur­ing a visit Mon­day to Goody’s Restau­rant in Brook Park, Ohio.

ANDREW HARNIK / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hillary Clin­ton speaks to mem­bers of the media Mon­day on her first flight on a new cam­paign plane be­fore tak­ing off at the Westch­ester County Air­port in White Plains, New York, to travel to Cleve­land Hop­kins In­ter­na­tional Air­port for La­bor Day events.

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