By Amie Parnes - 03/02/16 06:00 AM EST
Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: Muslim soldier was a hero but his father 'has no right' to criticize me Interim DNC chair to impose 'tough standards' after email leaks Mark Cuban campaigns for Clinton in hometown of Pittsburgh MORE is bracing for a bruising general election battle with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: Muslim soldier was a hero but his father 'has no right' to criticize me Mother of soldier killed in Iraq: I was too 'in pain' to speak at convention Top Koch network adviser rejects Trump's talk of law and order MORE.
Clinton and Trump both emerged victorious in a majority of Super Tuesday states, making it clearer than ever that they are likely to face off in November.
They’re also taking nothing for granted.
While Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination suggest the Democratic front-runner is licking her chops at the chance to take on the businessman, her allies see vulnerabilities against Trump.
“It’s a case of the smartest person in the room against the class clown,” said one longtime friend of Clinton. “And who wants to run against the class clown?
Trump has used a scorched-earth strategy to destroy every GOP rival in his path and has signaled he’s ready to do the same to Clinton.
He’s made her use of a private email server while secretary of State a regular part of his stump speeches and was quick to move to the topic on Tuesday at a press conference after his Super Tuesday victories.
“What she did is a criminal act,” he said. “Other people have done far less than her and they’ve paid a very big price.”
Clintonites say they’re expecting much worse.
“This isn’t about she knows foreign policy and he knows tax law, let’s debate,” the friend added. “He can’t make her look stupid. He’s not going to compete with her over what she knows, so he’s going to humiliate her.”
“He’s going to step her off her game, try to get her mad, get her to walk off the stage, slap him, all of those things,” the friend continued.
Another longtime Clinton adviser said it would be a difficult campaign for Clinton because of Trump’s anything-goes approach.
Clinton World also knows that the personal history of Bill and Hillary Clinton will be campaign fodder for Trump.
Trump has already mentioned Monica Lewinsky in an online ad for his campaign.
The advertisement, released in January, hits Bill ClintonBill ClintonTrump campaign: Clinton visiting Pa. like robber visiting victim 100 days to go in volatile race Romney: Trump victory 'very possible' MORE for lying about an affair with Lewinsky, contrasting it with Hillary Clinton’s support for women’s rights.
Trump made the attack after Clinton slammed him for his sexist remarks.
He warned he would bring up Clinton’s past again if she attacks him over sexism.
“I don’t want to say it’s a threat, but it’s a threat,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
It’s not as if Clinton’s team terrified of running against Trump.
The GOP candidate’s comments about Hispanics have raised questions about whether he can even do as well as Mitt Romney did in 2012’s general election with that demographic group, which overwhelmingly voted for President Obama.
Democrats are also salivating at the chance to make Trump the villain, believing they have plenty of ammunition.
Trump’s nomination could lead to “heightened enthusiasm on the Democratic side — combining people who are excited about her winning with people who are afraid of him winning,” the Clinton adviser said.
Allies say the typically cautious and wonky Clinton — better at policy than politics — will likely sharpen the tone of the campaign in the general election, depicting Trump as a loose cannon who isn’t fit to be president and has offended women, immigrants and many others.
She offered a taste on Tuesday.
“It’s clear tonight that the stakes in this election have never been higher, and the rhetoric we are hearing on the other side has never been lower,” she said. “Trying to divide America between us and them is wrong, and we are not going to let it work.”
Clinton’s team won’t be shy about pointing to Trump’s remarks on banning Muslims from entering or his refusal to disavow support from David Duke, a former leader of the Klu Klux Klan.
Many Republicans, at least, think she could destroy Trump.
“If it’s a Clinton-Trump campaign, she’s going to win and win handily,” said Tony Fratto, who served as a spokesman to former President George W. Bush. “She needs to come out swinging and aggressive. She needs to get out quickly and define him, attacking him early and often and never letting up.”
With voters generally expressing unfavorable opinions of both Trump and Clinton, Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who served as an adviser on the Romney campaign in 2012, quipped that the campaign could be “a race to the bottom to see who hits the bottom first.”
“His campaign is not one that will be driven by substance. Instead, it’s driven by style,” Madden said. “And as much as Hillary Clinton tries to make the case that she’s a substantive candidate, she’s terrible at the style part.”
Clinton in recent days has sought to highlight how she differs from Trump.
In stump speeches this week in South Carolina and Tennessee, Clinton has told supporters that Americans need more “love and kindness.” And she talks about making the country “whole.”
“Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers,” she has said in recent days on the stump.
Bill Clinton is also in on the act.
“We don’t need to make America great again,” he told a crowd in Colorado last week. “America never stopped being great. We do need to make America whole again.”
Trump has noticed the salvos.
Speaking to supporters in Palm Beach on Tuesday evening, Trump fired back: “Make America Great Again is much better than Make America Whole.”
Then he added, “I’m trying to figure out what that’s all about.”