Clinton team projects open confidence – Politico
DETROIT â Hillary Clintonâs campaign was happy to let the latest dramatic steps in Donald Trumpâs unprecedented implosion dominate the news cycle for the first part of the day.
Then, the pumped-up Democrat pounced.
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âDid anyone see that debate last night? Never saw anything like that before,â she told a bursting-at-the-seams crowd of 3,500 here at Wayne State University on Monday afternoon. âThe differences between me and my opponent were pretty clear. To paraphrase my friend Michelle Obama, one of us went high and one of us went low.â
Over the ensuing 30 minutes, Clinton laid into Trump, at times clearly seeking to throw an even deeper, sharper wedge between the GOP establishment and its nominee in an undisguised bid to stomp the life out of Trumpâs campaign while riling up tensions between his base and newly imperiled Republican Senate and House candidates.
âWhatâs exciting to me is weâre winning more and more support. Not just from Democrats, but from independents and Republicans,â she said, turning back to the debate: âDonald Trump spent his time attacking when he shouldâve been apologizing.â
An increasingly confident Clinton kept going, again lancing Trump for the Friday release of a video catching him bragging about sexual assault. âOn Friday, the whole world heard him talking about the terrible way he treats women,â she said, ridiculing his explanation that he was engaged in âlocker room banter.â
âWomen and men across America know that is just a really weak excuse.â
It was the peak of a re-energized Clinton campaign offensive, coming on a Monday in which its private confidence ahead of the debate surged into the public eye â not just because of the Trump tape and ensuing debate, but because 17 states will have begun early voting by Wednesday, because public polling was trending in Clintonâs direction in Trump must-wins like Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio even before the tape dropped, and because the candidate is now traveling to hammer home the voter-registration message ahead of local deadlines in Michigan, Ohio and Florida.
To leading operatives in Brooklyn on Monday morning, it was clearer than ever that Trump has now lost minorities and suburban women. Who, they asked themselves, is he now gaining?
As such, it marked the opening of a concerted effort by the Clinton team to actively participate in the splintering of its rival party and to make that kind of Trump gain impossible.
Clinton strategists often break down campaign days into a series of news cycles, and they calculated early that they should let Mondayâs opening hours roll on without the Democratsâ input. As House Speaker Paul Ryan told his colleagues he would no longer defend Trump and suggested he would instead focus on retaining a House Majority to combat a presumptive President Clinton, Clintonâs entire team kept quiet, figuring it worked in their favor to have GOP panic set in without their involvement.
Their silence â from the candidate on down the campaign infrastructure â continued into the early afternoon, growing most pointed as the Republican housefire accelerated around the publication of a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing Clinton up by double digits in both the four-way and head-to-head versions of the presidential race, leading Trump, whose numbers are mired in the mid-30s.
Then the attack ramped up, centered around Clintonâs bid to further split the fractured GOP: Campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri stalked to the back of the campaign plane to ratchet up the pressure on Ryan and his fellow party leaders in Washington.
âItâs pretty stunning that right after the debate the speaker of the House has to come and say heâs no longer going to defend Donald Trump and that each Republican member of Congress has to decide for themselves whether theyâre going to support the nominee. I understand why theyâre doing that, but [for] Paul Ryan and leaders of the Republican Party, there was a time when they could have stopped Donald Trump. There was a time where they couldâve spoken out against him. That time was the summer, and obviously itâs too late now. Obviously, somewhat of a civil war is breaking out in the Republican Party,â she said, making sure to note that her campaign had also just dropped four new television ads featuring Republicans supporting Clinton into the swing states â Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and Iowa, specifically.
âBut I think that Donald Trump didnât become the nominee of his party on his own. The leaders helped legitimize him and I think they have a lot to answer for, and I imagine voters will hold them accountable, too. There are some Senate races where we think that could be a particular issue, such as in Arizona, [and] Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, as a couple of examples.â
Gone on Monday was the Democratic teamâs usual insistence on tamping down public-facing confidence â Palmieri didnât even brush off rumors that Clinton would soon expand her target map to include Republican stalwart states like Georgia, Arizona and Missouri.
To veterans of former President Bill Clintonâs 1996 race â in which his lead was so solid in the late-going that GOP leaders all-but-abandoned presidential nominee Bob Dole â Mondayâs explosion was familiar, but even more pronounced.
â1996 was like a Disney family film compared to this year, which feels more like ‘Saw V,’â said veteran Democratic operative Chris Lehane, who worked on that campaign.
And Clinton herself did little to tamp down the ebullience. Interrupted briefly by a Trump-supporting protester in Detroit as the crowd drowned him out with cheers of âHil-la-ry!â she paused, then shot back: âI do hope somebody follows that gentleman off, to stage an intervention. He has clearly not being playing close attention to this election.â
The mood by midafternoon, in fact, was an even jauntier version of the one on Clintonâs plane immediately after the debate on Sunday night.
âThe most important thing is we need to take off,â the grinning candidate told a crammed-together mass of reporters as her jet idled on the tarmac in St. Louis. âSo we can actually have some drinks served.â