As Trump rises, Clinton struggles with playbook
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.
For months, Democrats argued that voters would get “serious” about the campaign once it reached the fall and would reject Donald Trump’s no-holds-barred approach.
They’re still waiting.
With fewer than 50 days left, polling shows a tightening national race and – most unnerving to Democrats – a Trump rise in key battleground states.
But as Trump’s provocative appeal gains traction, Hillary Clinton is sticking with the traditional playbook: lots of attack ads, a focus on getting out the vote and intense preparation for next week’s first general-election debate.
Her approach underscores what’s emerged as a central question of the 2016 campaign: Can Clinton’s play-it-safe political strategy win against a chaos candidate?
Even President Barack Obama, who long dismissed the idea of a future Trump administration, has started ringing alarm bells, warning Democratic supporters to expect a tight race that Clinton could possibly lose.
Recent polls suggest the Republican may have an edge in Iowa and Ohio and is likely in a close race with Clinton in Florida and North Carolina.
Clinton aides see next week’s debate at Hofstra University as a key moment. The Monday night match-up will finally give voters a chance to compare the candidates side-by-side.
Clinton must communicate the “contrast and choice to voters that are tuning in for the first time,” said spokesman Brian Fallon.
For his part, Trump has begun taking baby steps toward becoming a slightly more traditional candidate, reading off teleprompters, rolling out policy proposals and making overtures to minorities – creating even more uncertainty among Democrats about how he’ll act on the debate stage.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Trump campaigned Tuesday evening far from cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh where many candidates have courted moderate voters in recent years.
Instead, he zeroed in on this tiny, rural town of about 850 people to make his pitch to the disaffected, working-class white voters who have propelled his campaign.
The strategy appears to be less about swaying undecideds and more about making sure supporters don’t stay home on Election Day.
Clinton is planning to speak about how her economic plans will support people with disabilities.
Clinton’s campaign says the Democratic presidential candidate will use a speech in Orlando, Fla., today to “make the case for building an inclusive economy that welcomes people with disabilities, values their work, rewards them fairly, and treats them with respect.”