Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE delivered a sustained and blistering attack on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPennsylvania GOP authorizes subpoenas in election probe We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE in a 40-minute scripted speech Wednesday that sought to reassure Republicans about his campaign.
Trump seemed intent on projecting as presidential an image as possible in the address, delivered at his hotel in New York’s SoHo neighborhood rather than his usual venue of Trump Tower.
Dressed in a sober dark suit and red tie, Trump spoke in front of four American flags and read mostly off a teleprompter, employing his trademark rhetorical flourishes only sparingly.
The presumptive GOP nominee aimed to cast Clinton as a fundamentally corrupt figure who is more intent on catering to moneyed interests than defending the rights of American workers.
Trump even sought to turn the former secretary of State’s “I’m With Her” slogan against her.
“She believes she’s entitled to the office,” Trump said, “I’m with you, the American people. She thinks it’s all about her. I know it’s all about you.”
Trump sought to amplify his support in the Rust Belt — a region most Republicans believe offers him his most plausible path to the White House — by tying Clinton to the trade policies of her husband, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBusiness coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees MORE.
“Hillary Clinton supported Bill Clinton’s disastrous NAFTA, just like she supported China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization,” he said. “We’ve lost nearly one-third of our manufacturing jobs since these two Hillary-backed agreements were signed.”
At another point, he asserted that “she gets rich making you poor.”
Trump’s appeal is strongest among working-class white Americans, and polls from Quinnipiac University released this week showed him running neck and neck with Clinton in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
On several other occasions, Trump made direct appeals to Democrats or Democratic-leaning groups.
Near the beginning of the speech, he explicitly asked supporters of Clinton’s vanquished primary opponent, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack trillion tax hike the opposite of 'good investment' Progressive groups call for Puerto Rico Fiscal Control Board to be abolished MORE (I-Vt.), to “join our movement.”
Later, he suggested that Clinton’s willingness to embrace immigration reform would hurt African-Americans and Hispanics disproportionately. Because members of those groups “need jobs,” he said, “they are the ones she will hurt the most.”
Insiders will see Wednesday’s speech as evidence that the Trump campaign is moving onto more professional and orthodox footing after Corey Lewandowski was fired as campaign manager on Monday.
Lewandowski’s defenders assert that his insistence on “letting Trump be Trump” paved the way for the business mogul’s against-the-odds victory in the battle for the Republican nomination.
But his detractors counter that he was too much of an enabler of his boss, especially with regard to getting into high-profile personal feuds of negligible interest to the average voter.
Trump on Wednesday kept his focus unremittingly on Clinton, and other issues were conspicuous for their absence. His two most controversial proposals — building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and banning non-citizen Muslims from entering the U.S. — were referred to only obliquely.
Social media reports also indicated that reporters from news organization that had been blacklisted by the Trump campaign were allowed in to cover the address.
Much of the reaction from pundits split along predictable partisan lines, with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity describing the jab at Clinton’s slogan as “brilliant” and The Nation’s Joan Walsh calling the address “robotic” and “lie-riddled.”
The speech also received immediate pushback from Clinton allies. The pro-Clinton group Correct the Record peppered reporters’ inboxes with emails at the rate of about one every four minutes during the time Trump was speaking.
That’s the kind of display of organizational muscle that makes Republicans jittery about the state of Trump’s campaign. He has a staff about one-tenth of the size of Clinton’s. The most recently released fundraising numbers showed the Clinton campaign with about $42 million on hand and just $1.3 million for Trump's.
Trump and his allies have argued that those figures are essentially meaningless because he is a billionaire who could theoretically cut a check to his own campaign that would eliminate Clinton’s advantage at a stroke.