Donald Trump and his campaign are previewing a pull-no-punches strategy against Hillary Clinton in what looks to be a difficult road to victory this November.
Trump started off his virtual general-election campaign by promising to take the “high road” if Clinton reciprocated.
A few days later, however, he was forcefully reiterating his claim that Clinton was an “enabler” of her husband’s decades-old marital infidelities.
“She’s been the total enabler,” Trump said at a weekend rally in Eugene, Oregon. “She was an unbelievably nasty, mean enabler.”
Having savaged more than a dozen opponents in the Republican primary season with at-times brutal ad-hominem attacks, Trump and his campaign have given mixed signals about their strategy to defeat Clinton.
In an interview with Business Insider on Friday, for instance, Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson lamented that a potential matchup between Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would have been a rehash of tired political fights from the 1990s and early 2000s.
“It was just insane to think we were going to have another Bush-Clinton matchup,” Pierson said. “The same old policies, the same old complaints, the same old arguments. Hillary Clinton is still arguing today about the same things she was arguing for 40 years ago. Her husband was president for two terms, she served as secretary of state, and she’s still complaining about the same things after.”
But when asked by Business Insider about whether that included re-litigating former President Bill Clinton’s marital infidelities, Pierson reversed course.
“No, it is fair,” Pierson said of Trump’s focus on Clinton’s affairs. “It depends on what argument is being made. So when Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump is a sexist, he wanted to remind her that she’s living with one.”
Pierson, who claimed Clinton hadn’t been “vetted,” also suggested the campaign would be discussing other women who have accused Hillary Clinton of trying to “silence” their claims about her husband.
“There are a lot of things that Hillary Clinton has done or participated in that I think a lot of people would be taken aback by,” she said.
Trump frequently boasts of being a “counter-puncher,” and his latest attacks on the campaign trail came as he told the audience of reports that a pro-Clinton super PAC had reserved more than $90 million in ad buys against Trump. But polls show that Trump’s attempts to tie the former secretary of state to her husband’s checkered past could be a risky political move.
Public polls found Hillary Clinton’s favorability numbers peaked just after her husband was impeached by the House of Representatives during the scandal involving Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
For her part, Clinton has refused to take Trump’s bait.
“I’m going to let him run his campaign however he chooses,” she told reporters during a campaign stop in West Virginia on Monday.
“I’m not running against him,” she added. “He’s doing a fine job of doing that himself.”
And Trump’s comments about Clinton are the most recent in a lengthy history of inflammatory statements the former reality-television star has made about prominent female celebrities. Those comments have likely done little to help a crumbling image of Trump among female voters.
Despite his promises that he will win a large share of the female vote, the real-estate magnate maintains a disproportionately high unfavorable rating among likely female voters, including women who vote in Republican primaries.
Trump’s campaign, however, insisted that it is only going after Clinton’s personal life because the former secretary of state has criticised Trump’s rhetoric.
“He doesn’t want to go there. If he wants to keep it on the high level, he’ll keep it on the high level,” Pierson said.
She added: “But when you start to tear down a man who is not a sexist, or a racist or a misogynist, he will defend himself.”
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