Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports MORE is going negative early on Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE.
The Democratic presidential front-runner and super-PACs aligned with her campaign have released videos of other Republicans ripping the presumptive GOP nominee and of Trump making fun of a disabled reporter.
Other attacks highlight numerous insults Trump has used against women — including his controversial remarks about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after the first Republican debate — and compare the businessman unfavorably with past Republican presidents.
The effort is all about making sure Trump is branded early in the general election campaign, say Clinton allies.
It’s also about beating Trump to the punch.
“We had to. It was either let him walk all over us or create opportunities where we could throw the first few punches,” said one Clinton ally.
Tracy Sefl, who served as a senior adviser to the super-PAC Ready for Hillary, said it was “smart” for the campaign to slam Trump early.
Team Clinton has concluded that Trump’s GOP opponents, who in many cases wanted to woo the businessman’s supporters, waited too long to make the case against him during the Republican primary process.
“I really don’t think it’s possible to remind voters enough of his offensive and unintelligible remarks,” Sefl said.
The negative attacks are also notable because of where Clinton and Trump stand in the presidential race.
While Trump has locked up the GOP nomination, Clinton is still fighting a two-front war. She wants to turn her attention fully to the general election, but she is also dealing with Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats urge Biden to commute sentences of 4K people on home confinement Briahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices MORE, the Vermont senator who promises to battle her throughout the primary season.
Sanders defeated Clinton in Tuesday’s West Virginia primary and may pick up subsequent wins next week in Kentucky and Oregon. Clinton is almost certain to win her party’s nomination given her huge delegate lead over Sanders, but she cannot ignore him. That means she can’t put her full
attention on Trump, making the effort to define his negatives now that much more urgent.
Team Clinton sees this as a good strategy given the circumstances. Her staff plans to highlight Trump’s negatives by emphasizing his divisiveness in an appeal to independents and even some Republicans.
“Donald Trump is dangerous, divisive and deceptive,” Brad Woodhouse, the president of the super-PAC American Bridge 21st Century, wrote in an email. “There is no better way to communicate that to the American people than to use Trump’s own words against him.”
Justin Barasky, a spokesman for Priorities USA, another pro-Clinton super-PAC, said the plan in the coming weeks is to aggressively contrast Trump’s and Clinton’s records.
“We’re going to aggressively take the fight to him,” Barasky said in an interview.
Trump is not taking the attacks lying down.
He has laid into Hillary and 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’s record over the last week and has taken to calling the former secretary of State “Crooked Hillary.”
Derisive nicknames of opponents — “Lyin’ Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMore than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE” and “Little Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE” — have been a big part of the Trump attack.
He has also highlighted Bill Clinton’s infidelities and has accused Hillary Clinton of being a “total enabler” of her husband.
Clinton has not addressed those attacks directly and intends to leave the fight to super-PACs and other third parties.
“I am running my campaign. I am not running against him,” she told reporters this week, according to CNN.
Super-PACs aligned with Clinton may also have some limits.
For example, Priorities USA officials say it doesn’t plan to dig into Trump’s personal life.
Clintonites aren’t “trolling the tabloids to talk about Trump’s two failed marriages,” as one Clinton ally put it.
Instead, their negative attacks are intended to win over minority voters and women by reminding them of things Trump has said in the past.
Last week, the campaign unveiled an attack ad that compiled quotations from Republicans, such as 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, calling Trump everything from a “bully” to a “xenophobic bigot.”
The ad followed a Snapchat video — a presidential campaign first — in which the Clinton campaign slashed Trump’s “Republican values” by comparing his positions with those of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Correct the Record, the super-PAC coordinating with Clinton’s campaign, issued an ad ripping Trump’s remarks on women.
Attacks on Trump in the primary didn’t slow him down, leaving some risks for Clinton.
“When we attacked Trump, even if it came from a place of principle, sometimes it backfired,” said Tim Miller, who served as communications director to former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and the anti-Trump group Never Trump.
“It’s important that she pick her spots so that the campaign doesn’t become about replying to every Donald Trump tweet,” he added.
Just a week ago, Trump vowed to avoid negative attacks if he was treated “fairly.”
At the same time, Miller said if it is a negative campaign Clinton wants, Trump is only too happy to oblige.
“He’s always going to be able to fight dirty better than her, but for as long as they’re staying in the territory of his comments on minorities and women, that’s a victory for her,” Miller said. “The [Clinton] campaign is going to have to do it to drive up his negatives and keep it in the news. You need new shiny objects for cable news to cover.”