Clinton shifts focus to GOP contenders at Springfield rally

Printed from:

SPRINGFIELD – Hillary Clinton is casting herself as a civil alternative to the insults, bullying, and personal attacks that have consumed the Republican race.

“What we can’t let happen is the scapegoating, the flaming, the finger pointing that is going on the Republican side,” the former Secretary of State told voters gathered in Springfield, the largest city in Western Massachusetts, on Monday morning. “It really undermines our fabric as a nation. So, I want to do everything I can in this campaign to set us on a different course.”

Clinton is in the midst of a Bay State campaign swing before travelling to Virginia on the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries, which includes contests in both. Clinton is turning to focus on Republicans after a smashing win over rival Bernie Sanders in South Carolina Saturday and as the latest poll in Massachusetts, from Suffolk University, shows her leading the Vermont senator by 50 percent to 42 percent among likely Democratic voters.

She made almost no mention of Sanders, underscoring how her political fortunes have shifted since her 22-point loss in New Hampshire earlier this month.

Instead, she’s focusing more on her potential general election opponents, particularly Donald Trump, the New York billionaire and former reality television star, asking Democratic primary voters for their help combating Republican economic policies. She says the two parties will have a “great debate” over the economy.

As Clinton enters the series of Super Tuesday contests this week, allies of the former secretary

Among the likely options: Questioning Trump’s qualifications and temperament to be president, scrutinizing his business practices and bankruptcy filings, and re-airing his inflammatory statements about women and minorities who will be central to the Democrats’ efforts in November.

“Is this the guy you would trust with the nuclear codes? Is this the guy you would trust with your son or daughter in the military? Is this the guy you would trust to run the economy?” asked Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut, a Clinton backer, pointing to a likely argument from Democrats.

While party leaders see Clinton in a favorable position against Trump, they caution that the real estate mogul has shown a mastery of the media and an ability to stay on offense throughout the GOP primaries. And they acknowledge Trump has successfully tapped into a deep vein of economic insecurity running through the electorate.

“Any race he is in is unpredictable,” said David Brock, a Clinton supporter who oversees several Democratic super PACs. “Any strategy we come up with today is going to have to be awfully flexible because we don’t know what to expect from this guy.”

Clinton aides and allies also worry that Trump’s unorthodox constituency of working-class white voters might allow him to put more states in play — particularly Midwestern swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin — compared to past nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain. And they note large voter turnouts in GOP primaries won by Trump.

But Democrats predict a Trump nomination could have a splintering effect on the Republican party and are looking for ways to exacerbate it.

A new survey of 800 likely Republican voters commissioned by a Democratic firm led by Stan Greenberg, who served as President Bill Clinton’s pollster, found that 20 percent of Republicans are “uncertain” whether they would back Trump or Clinton in a head-to-head match-up.

The number included one-quarter of Catholics and one-third of moderates, according to the survey by the Democracy Corps’ Republican Party Project shared with The Associated Press.

The poll found Trump’s share of the vote drops among Catholics and moderates when Democrats describe him as an “ego-maniac,” ”disrespectful to women,” untrustworthy with the nation’s nuclear weapons and supporting a “big oil agenda.”

“If people are fearful that you can’t trust Trump with nuclear weapons, if you have Republican validators like Sen. McCain and other Republicans in the foreign policy establishment saying they can’t trust Trump, there’s a potential for a splintering off of huge Republican base voters,” Greenberg said.

But Republicans, Democrats argue, haven’t mounted a sustained campaign to undermine Trump’s image as a successful dealmaker. They envision a more extensive

Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List, which backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, said Trump’s derogatory comments about women during the primaries would mobilize female voters. She said as the “head of the party,” Trump would influence Senate races in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Florida.

Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, is increasingly pointing to Trump as the likely GOP nominee. Her message underscores Democrats’ interest in holding Trump below 30 percent support among Hispanics, a level few think would allow the businessman to win the White House.

While Trump spends far more time assailing his Republican rivals, he has previewed some attack lines he would likely use against Clinton, describing her as a liar and failed secretary of state who would have been indicted over her email scandal were she not so cozy with President Barack Obama. He has made clear he’s ready to take personal shots, bringing up her husband’s past infidelities and suggesting she was complicit in what Trump has described as the former president’s abuse of women.

Written by Ken Thomas and Lisa Lerer