On this Super Tuesday, after a long battle on both sides, we find ourselves back at the stage of presumptive favorites for the presidential nomination of both the Republican and Democratic party and if the polling proves accurate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are likely to face-off in the general election this fall. And according to a New York Times report "based on interviews with more than two dozen advisers, strategists and close allies of the Clintons," the campaign has begun to gradually shift focus away from the primary race against Bernie Sanders and towards the general match-up with an eye on the billionaire bully.
Clinton's pivot to the general election was on display last night when she repeated her new line of attack against Trump's trademark slogan: "I personally believe America is, and always has been, great. What we need to do together is make America whole again." While Clinton campaign spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri was quick to insist that the campaign is still focused on the primary, she did point out to the Times that Clinton "was the first person to call Trump out on either side, and we reserve the right to do that depending on the circumstances.”
So while Clinton's general election weakness and high unfavorable numbers may still cause her to stumble against Sanders in the primary, her campaign has devised a plan that can hardly be described as sophisticated, relying on outside groups to dish out the same opposition research on the real estate magnate that failed to slow his momentum in the GOP primary and playing up Trump's own divisiveness and hate to drum up turnout from traditional Democratic voters:
The plan has three major thrusts: Portray Mr. Trump as a heartless businessman who has worked against the interests of the working-class voters he now appeals to; broadcast the degrading comments he has made against women in order to sway suburban women, who have been reluctant to support Mrs. Clinton; and highlight his brash, explosive temper to show he is unsuited to be commander in chief.
“Hillary has built a large tanker ship, and she’s about to confront Somali pirates,” former George W. Bush aide Matthew Dowd told the Times, referring to Trump's impending onslaught. "Can you imagine what he’ll do ... he’ll turn to her and say, ‘You can’t even handle your stuff at home.’”
“Love and kindness”
Following her historic South Carolina win on Saturday, Clinton previewed what her advisers call “a campaign against bigotry.” Americans need more “love and kindness” she told her supporters.
“Instead of building walls,” she said, positing herself as the antithesis of Trump, “we need to be tearing down barriers.”
According to the Times, from the mouth of the candidate and campaign will come a positive message meant to counteract Trump's often controversial campaign rhetoric. As for the hand-to-hand mudslinging that will inevitably ensue, the Times reports that many of Clinton ally David Brock's organizations are ready to paint Trump as "the perfect solution to the enthusiasm gap" with Democratic voters.
“Hope and change, not so much,” said David Plouffe, who managed Obama’s 2008 campaign, “More like hate and castrate.”
Use outside groups to get dirty
If the Times' reporting is accurate, be prepared to be bombarded with campaign ads sponsored by Democratic super PACs — like American Bridge, Priorities USA and organizations like Correct the Record and Emily's List - attacking Trump all fall. According to the Times, these groups are "preparing to script and test ads that would portray Mr. Trump as a misogynist and an enemy to the working class whose brash temper would put the nation and the world in grave danger":
American Bridge, a pro-Clinton “super PAC,” has formed a “due diligence unit” of tax and business experts who are poring over Securities and Exchange Commission documents and court records related to Mr. Trump’s business career.
Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Mrs. Clinton that effectively portrayed Mitt Romney as a cold corporate titan in the 2012 campaign, will begin scripting and testing ads that use a similar approach against Mr. Trump.
Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, said that an expanded research shop at the organization had compiled “an endless amount of misogynistic and outrageous comments towards women.”
Keep Trump talking
The entire Clinton plan to defeat Trump is premised on the assumption that Donald will continue being the same old, blustery big mouth he's always been. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell told the Times that for Clinton to win, she must "keep coaxing him into making offensive or extreme comments that would alienate independents and others who might normally vote for a Republican nominee."
Conceding that Trump "has crossover appeal with some blue-collar working-class Democrats,“ Rendell argued that "for every one of those blue-collar Democrats he picks up, he will lose to Hillary two socially moderate Republicans and independents in suburban Cleveland, suburban Columbus, suburban Cincinnati, suburban Philadelphia, suburban Pittsburgh, places like that,” he said.
The Times reports that the Clinton campaign will attempt to use Trump's own words to paint him "as unpresidential." The very things that have so far only left him dominant in the Republican presidential race as the Teflon Don.