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As Trump rises, Clinton struggles with traditional playbook

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gestures during a campaign stop at Temple University in Philadelphia, Monday.

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.

“This guy is not qualified to be president,” Obama told donors at a Manhattan fundraiser on Sunday. “This should not be a close election, but it will be.”

Clinton’s campaign, Democrats say, has little choice but to stick with its plan. The always-measured Clinton, they argue, can’t out-improvise one of the most unpredictable politicians of the modern era.

“We’re going through the roller-coaster rides of campaigns. All she can do is just keep plowing ahead,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist who ran Obama’s Florida operation in 2008 and advised him four years later. “She’s going to win it by grinding it out.”

Hoping to calm some supporters’ concerns, Clinton’s campaign sent out a memo Monday, reminding them that the electoral map favors Democrats. The memo charted various paths to 270 electoral votes and urged backers to channel their worry into volunteering.

“Battleground states carry that name for a reason: They’re going to be close, from now until Election Day,” wrote campaign manager Robby Mook. “But we are going to win them because we’ve spent the past year building a superior ground game to communicate our message and turn our people out to vote. So instead of worrying, let’s just get to work!”

But Trump, who lacks Clinton’s organized effort on the ground but regularly fills massive arenas, is far from a standard opponent. In the primary, he knocked off more than a dozen rivals who took a basically standard approach to his unpredictable rhetoric.

“Everybody in the primary at one point or another tried to take Donald Trump down in the way you take someone down who says absurd things and none of them worked,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz. “She’s trying to do more of the same. And more of the same isn’t working.”

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.

Though aides decline to detail debate preparations, Clinton has built a lot of downtime into her schedule for recent weeks. Then there was the pneumonia episode.

She is holding sessions with experienced Democratic debate experts, including Ron Klain, Karen Dunn and Robert Barnett, all of whom advised Obama. One closely held secret: the identity of the person playing Trump in the sessions.

“In an unpredictable race against an unpredictable candidate, by definition the only thing you can control is what you do,” said Mo Elleithee, a former Clinton aide who’s now head of the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service. “They’re focusing on that.”

While Clinton has been prepping, her team has stuck with its strategy: Define Trump in the summer with a barrage of negative ads.

Clinton’ campaign and allies have spent more than $180 million on TV and radio advertising between mid-June and this week, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. Trump and his supporters spent about $40 million in the same time period.

It’s a strategy that mirrors the one pursued by Obama during his re-election campaign, when his team barraged Mitt Romney through the summer with ads casting him as an out-of-touch plutocrat.

But Clinton, with deep unfavorability ratings of her own, is a far different candidate from Obama. Her team is making a renewed push to ensure turnout from groups who supported the president — young voters, Latinos and African-Americans. But she acknowledges she has work to do, telling young voters in Philadelphia on Monday she understands they “may still have some questions” about her.

Looking to the debates, Clinton says she’s ready for whatever Trump sends her way.

“I am going to do my very best to communicate as clearly and – and fearlessly as I can in the face of the insults and the attacks and the bullying and bigotry that we’ve seen coming from my opponent,” she said on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.” ”I understand it’s a contact sport.”

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. >> (AP) — Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of giving “aid and comfort” to Islamic terrorists Monday, declaring after a weekend of violent attacks in three states that his anti-Muslim rhetoric helps groups like ISIS recruit new fighters. Trump showed no sign of changing, casting “many” foreigners coming to the U.S. as a “cancer within.”

The Democratic presidential candidate touted her own national security credentials at a hastily arranged news conference outside her campaign plane, saying she was the most qualified to combat terrorism and accusing Republican Trump for using the incidents to make “some kind of demagogic point.”

“I’m the only candidate in this race who’s been part of the hard decisions to take terrorists off the battlefield,” Clinton, a former secretary of state, told reporters. “I have sat at that table in the Situation Room.”

She added: “I know how to do this.”

The possibility of a home-grown terrorist plot cast a long shadow over the presidential race, diverting both candidates’ attention from the daily controversies of the presidential race and giving them a high-profile opportunity to make their case to undecided voters.

Clinton and her team see her experience and what they say is her steady judgment as key selling points for her candidacy. On the campaign trail, she frequently invokes her role in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, describing to voters the tense atmosphere in the White House alongside President Barack Obama.

But while much of the foreign policy establishment has rallied around Clinton, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, promises to close U.S. borders and vows to aggressively profile potential terrorists have fueled his presidential bid.

On Monday, he hit hard on those points, calling for tougher policing, including profiling foreigners who look like they could have connections to terrorism or certain Mideastern nations.

“Knock the hell out of ‘em,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends” in a telephone interview.

“We don’t want to do any profiling,” he said of current U.S. policy. “If somebody looks like he has a massive bomb on his back, we won’t go up to that person and say I’m sorry because if he looks like he comes from that part of the world we’re not allowed to profile. … Give me a break.”

Pointing to her “aid and comfort” remark and others, Trump’s campaign said Clinton was accusing him of treason, going beyond the bounds of acceptable campaigning and trying to change the subject from her own failures. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon responded: “The Trump campaign can call it whatever they want; Hillary Clinton will continue to call it out.”

Clinton urged voters not to “get diverted and distracted by the kind of campaign rhetoric we hear from the other side.” She insinuated that Islamic militants, particularly those affiliated with ISIS, are rooting for Trump to win the White House. The Republican has said he would bar immigration from nations with ties to terrorism.

“We’re going after the bad guys and we’re going to get them, but we’re not going to go after an entire religion,” Clinton said.

Clinton briefly turned her focus from national security on Monday, wooing younger voters at a midday rally in Philadelphia.

At an invitation-only event at Temple University, she acknowledged that she needs to do more to get millennials on board.

“Even if you are totally opposed to Donald Trump, you may still have some questions about me. I get that. And I want to do my best to answer those questions,” she told several hundred students gathered in an ornate, wood-paneled lecture hall.

This election marks the first presidential campaign where millennials make up the single largest generation among U.S. adults, having surpassed baby boomers during the past four years. The group helped anchor Obama’s support, but Clinton has failed to attract them in the same numbers.

She was to meet with the leaders of Egypt, Ukraine and Japan late in the day in New York City. The leaders are in New York for the U.N. General Assembly. Trump announced plans to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Monday.

New York officials said Monday the bombings in a Manhattan neighborhood and a New Jersey shore town were looking increasingly like acts of terrorism with a foreign connection. Authorities were also investigating the stabbings of nine people at a Minnesota mall as a possible act of terrorism.

An Afghan immigrant wanted for questioning in the bombings was captured in New Jersey Monday after being wounded in a gun battle with police, authorities said.

The events came as both candidates were dealing with missteps. Trump and his allies spent Sunday — repeatedly and falsely — accusing Clinton of pushing the idea that President Obama was not born in the U.S. — a conspiracy theory long championed by Trump himself.

Clinton, meanwhile, is still facing questions about her health and openness after a video caught her staggering after abruptly leaving a 9/11 ceremony.

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    • Yep – we either get the lying big money Democrat, or the brazen “Republican” wildcard. The problem with this year’s election is that one of them is going to win!

  • Mrs. Clinton is going to win. It looks like the House, unfortunately, will still stay in Republican control.

    Mr. Trump will be eviscerated in the debates (since he knows nothing at all about domestic or foreign affairs) which still might help tip the Senate to Democratic control.

    Just today, more unbelievable details have been exposed on the Trump Foundation. He enjoys buying giant portrait of himself (a second one was reported today) and he also illegally used foundation funding to pay fines. Folks are going to ask for the tax exempt status be revoked.

    • Klastri, good evening. No, the stars are lined up for Mr. Trump to be elected President of the United States with the evaluation of the electoral votes of 270. Yes, the House will remain Republican, and the momentum in the Senate races today come up with the Republicans holding control. There are two Republican Senators in toss up States and one open seat in Nevada that leans Republican. We can all watch how the citizens of the United States begin supporting candidates as we get closer to the general election.

        • IRT Klastri, how will Ms Hillary handle the terrorist acts in NY and NJ? She is struggling to respond playing on both sides of the fence. Oh, how will she handle the Reddit information naming her directing Paul Combetta to wipe her hard drive on her private server in 2014 after the Congress served Ms Clinton.

        • I agree, kuroiwaj.

          This is beginning to look more and more like 1980 when all the blue veined, hoity toity, eminence griese predicted a has been B grade movie actor – – who had last starred with a chimp in ‘No Time For Bonzo’ – – had no chance against a sitting incumbent.

          Well the Gipper ate their lunch with a blow out victory over the sorry little peanut farmer from Plains Georgia – – and even had coat tails big enough to bring in a GOP Senate majority. The inflection point that put the race out of reach of Carter was delivered with four little words:”There you go again”.

          A Trump landslide would be at all surprising to me given the sorry performance of that tacky, incompetent, America hating amateur we now have in the White House.

        • Hmmmn, and you geniuses might want to see the results of polling released this afternoon. As I said last Friday, dollars to doughnuts, Trump is going to give up whatever gains he made the previous two weeks.

          Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump nationally by 6 percentage points among likely voters, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday afternoon.

        • Donald Trump narrowly leads Hillary Clinton in the battleground states of Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio.

          That’s according to Fox News statewide likely voter polls conducted Sunday through Tuesday evenings.

          Trump is helped by strong support from working-class white voters, while Clinton is hurt by a lackluster performance among younger voters and women.

          In each state, Trump’s advantage is within the margin of sampling error.

        • Today’s snapshot: Reuters/IPSOS has Trump up by 2; LA Times/USC Tracking has Trump up by 4; PPP has Trump up by 2.

        • For those not in the know,, LA poll is considered an outlier by most polling experts and in fact, not used by many news outlets in the their combined polls.

      • Hmmmmn. For the first time in modern history, a former president of one party has said he will vote for a nominee from the other party.

        The president who is taking this step is of course the senior George Bush, who this week reportedly told a crowd of 40 people that he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton.

        Yeah right, Trump is not winning. Those in the know, like the Koch Bros n Sandy Aldeson have unequivocally refused to support him…..why, they know that a careful inspection of the numbers reveal he really has no chance, and thus, are only participating in congressional races.

    • klastri, send money to the Hillary Clintongate defense fund. Donald wins she’s going to the Jail House. She’s spent a fortune on attorneys, attack ads, kitchen sinks – it just gets worse.
      She has no new plan. It’s so bad she’s using Bernie’s and Donald’s playbook.
      Even the minorities are waking up. Maybe it’s time you did the same.

    • Face it, Klastri. Clinton, her campaign and Democrats are in panic mode with Hillary’s poll numbers rapidly changing in Trump’s favor and they are trying very hard not to show it. A date that will live in infamy for Hillary is rapidly approaching. It is Election Day, November 8, 2016.

  • “attack ads”, wasn’t she blaming Trump for attacking….who actually is the “chaos candidate?….”this guy is not qualified to be president”, Hillary “is not qualified” either……”always measured Clinton”? did she forget or did she lie?……’The electoral map favors Democrats”, rigged…….”I’m the only candidate in this race who’s been part of the hard decisions to take terrorist of the battlefield…Oh really. 4 dead Americans, including a US Ambassador, who asked repeatedly for more security, and was denied. Seems like that decision wasn’t too “hard” now was it?…..”I know I can do this.”, whaaaat?……”her team see(s) her experience and what they say is her steady judgement”, that right there says a lot about her team. Low standards. Her lack of judgement is why she’s stuggling…..And taking credit for Bin Laden too.(WOW) thats going deep ,very deep…..”not to get diverted ..by.. campaign…rhetoric”, this whole Ad, yes, Ad is “campaign…Rhetoric”.

    • Not that Benghazi was Hillary’s fault, it should always be remembered that she lost 4 people there. Republicans lost 3100 when they were in control. (9/11 -3000, various attacks on embassies, close to a hundred) How many will the Donald lose if he goes through with his plan to bomb fishing boats for giving the US navy the finger?

      • Benghazi was MOST ASSUREDLY Hillary’s fault.

        She made her usual clumsy, hand handed approach attempting a very difficult, off the books, “black” operation in Libya to funnel arms to what later turned out to be “the JV team” (ISIS) in hopes of removing Bashar El Assad from his entrenched seat of power in Syria.

        In trying to keep a low profile she ignored months of anguished requests from her now dead Ambassador for beefed up security.

        And when it all hit the fan less than 2 months from that all important re-election she quickly and stupidly came up with the non existant protest of a video no one had ever seen.

        Gallons of Benghazi blood is on her hands and it remains indelible.

  • prior comments are awaiting approval.

    last week, the female felon over heated, fainted and had to be hauled stumbling into her pumpkin as she dropped her shoe for some prince charming to find, blowing the cover of her doctor lisa bardack, who is the woman seen walking with, steadying and holding the female felon up on her feet during last sunday’s debacle.

    yesterday, monday, the female felon attended a philidelphia rally and as she delivered her speech, close up video revealed her eyes moved somewhat independently as she shifted her gaze around the room. perhaps, a reason for doctor okunola, a neurologist, is always close by ready with a diazepam pen. his cover was blown weeks ago when he rushed the stage as the female felon was startled and froze mid-sentence.

    tuesday, it is revealed that a major north carolina campaign fundraising lunch was postponed with no reason given. seats were sold at $100,000, $33,000, $5,000 and $2,700.

    her campaign is under another communications black out. where is she? what is her health status? will she be appearing on milk cartons tomorrow?

    her health issues have taken front center stage. while her attack ads flood national media the orange one has taken a one point lead in contested states and has polled even in most other states.

    • Illary didn’t help to clear up the picture today when she missed a scheduled fundraiser in N. Carolina today with no explanation provided by her campaign.

  • Clinton is not a good choice. Her immigration policies will destroy the U.S. Then, she says things that are obvious lies – like, she wants to provide FREE college tuition – Hahahaha! Where is the money going to come from?
    Trump is also not the best – but then, his ideas are popular and it now is a matter of who is the best of the two?

    • I belive she came up with this free tuition just to please Sanders and his supporters. Trumps ideas may be popular but can he deliver if he becomes President? I think not.
      Today i hear that Trump use his foundation money to pay off some of his law suits.

    • Affirmative – no such thing as a free lunch. Free college tuition a.k.a. taxpayer funded college tuition. The result is higher college tuition costs for all students.

  • One of them is a politician. Smooth to create promises with frills, bells and candles, but is unable to keep them. One is a novice, speaks before he thinks, but his openness and gung-ho personality may be the key to create doubts and confusion with the enemies! The enemies won’t be able to gauge his motives nor will our friends. A little mystery can be an advantage over all those friends and foes alike!

    • I understand what you are saying, don’t necessarily agree, but can see why you feel that way.

      My reason for not buying what Trump says has nothing to do with ideology or an overreaction to his political incorrectness. My experience in organizational behavior AND study in individual psychology (they are distinct fields) both tell me one thing: Trump is a salesman—not a statesman.

      One of the first rules in organizational science is that you CANNOT put a salesman in an executive position. Whenever a charming salesman type pulls off some great deals, the inclination is to reward them with a promotion to a managerial position. When that happens, it soon becomes clear that it was a mistake. For a good example, look up what happened when Trump tried to call the shots in his own Trump Airlines.

      Another way to look at it: Were you ever sweet-talked by a salesman into buying a shirt that looked ugly once you took it home, or a car you ended up regretting? And did you ever go back and try to get a refund? Right, no sympathy, no responsibility, and the guy probably didn’t even remember you or whatever he promised.

      I’m not saying this to belittle Trump, but it’s just clear that he’s only good at giving people hope with his flamboyant style. He can’t even remember what he said last week, so how can he follow up?

      Well, do your own research and pay attention to what each candidate says.

      • What happens when you put a Marxist rabble rouser with no accomplishments outside of academia in an executive position? Surely your studies must have something to say about that. Or when you put a habitual liar and influence peddler in bad health in an executive position? What does your experience in organizational behavior make you think about that? Please enlighten us so we know how to vote.

    • And a trained lawyer and what do lawyers are good at, they will say anything no matter how guilty their client may be or how idiotic their ideas may be so that that client get off easily or that idea become more palatable and acceptable to the Grubber subjects.

  • I cannot in good nature accept a president that deceives, lies, and puts our national security in jeopardy. This country is already falling apart at the seams and 1/2 of this country wants a president that will lie to our face? I would like to think this country would want change, to help point us in the right direction. I’d vote for a president that looks out for our best interest as a country and not for political gain or power…

  • Clinton is the most dishonest and untrustworthy person who has sought this office. If she wins, that says much about what we as a nation are willing to accept. Sadly, morality has declined to the point where Clinton is actually a viable candidate, primarily because the opposite is demonized to the extreme.

  • Progressive bed wetters of the world unite! Contact your therapists and stock up on anti-depressants. Your candidate is floundering like a fish out of water. The media is in full court press mode trying to prop up Waldo but it’s backfiring. She just can’t draw any interest. Waldo took some more time off, she’s definitely not up for the job. The sooner you come to terms with that the softer the blow will be when Trump is inaugurated. Then he has the Herculean task of trying to fix little Barry Hussein’s long list of screw-ups. Make America Great Again!

  • Gang Hawaii, Bottom line is we have to pick a candidate. We need a badboy to fight the badguys and people are beginning to realize the very real dangers of illegal immigrants and terrorism. Build a wall sound out of the box? Yeah, but a wall can come in many forms too such as paperwork and properly approved documentations. People are just sick and tired of the same old talk tough and do nothing establishment of the Hellary Clinton Gang and the poll numbers will reflect this. Get your popcorn and watch the fireworks.

  • When Obama campaigned for President, his chant was “CHANGE”. WOW do we need it now. Trump–yes, I read all the “stuff” but to have Hillary elected for another round of the same old tax and spend–no way!!! She is avoiding the press and the public for comments–and I can see who–she has too many faults. Obama had them too but nobody attacked him-racist!!!

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