Clinton relishes role as champion of women's rights

Story highlights

  • A new poll finds two-thirds of women think Clinton cares about the needs and problems of women, far more than leading GOP candidates
  • Speaking before Democrats in Minneapolis, Clinton dedicated much of her speech to women's issues

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton couldn't have planned it better if she tried.

On Thursday, speaking in Ohio, the Democratic front-runner pulled a Donald Trump, using caustic language to describe what she called the "out of touch policies" of her GOP rivals when it comes to women's issues.
"Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don't want to live in the modern world, but it's a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States," Clinton said in Cleveland. "Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back."
    It's the war on women all over again. But this time, the language is more strident and the presidential candidate making the case can credibly say it's a personal issue and not just a political talking point. While Clinton later dropped the controversial wording from a later speech, the contrast will be a staple of her speeches as aides see it as central to her appeal and electoral chances.
    Naturally, Republicans -- sensing an opening and not a trap -- pounced.
    Rick Santorum, lagging in the polls, tweeted: "I wish @HillaryClinton was as hard on the terrorists as she is on those who respect the dignity of all human life."
    Donald Trump fired back Friday morning, saying on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "her last statement on terrorists was a disgusting statement, by the way."
    Jeb Bush tweeted Thursday: ".@HillaryClinton compares pro-life Americans to terrorists, but defends despicable PP treatment of unborn? Her priorities are totally wrong."
    And the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, blasted a fundraising appeal out to supporters via email:
    "Are you a terrorist?" the opening line asked. "Hillary Clinton sure seems to think so."
    For Clinton, amping up the cultural wars with women at the center, is exactly the fight she wants as she battles Bernie Sanders (and possibly Joe Biden) for the progressive mantle.
    "Now of course, Mr. Trump also insults and dismisses women, and by the way, just yesterday he attacked me once again and said I didn't have a clue about women's health issues. Really?" she said in Minneapolis on Friday at the Democratic National Committee's gathering. "I mean you can't make this stuff up folks. Trump actually said he would do a much better job for women than I would. That's a general election debate that is going to be a lots of fun."
    According to a new Quinniapiac University poll, two-thirds of women think Clinton cares about the needs and problems of women. For Trump, it's less than a quarter. And for Bush, it's 43%.
    In the Democratic field, Clinton also has an edge. She leads Bernie Sanders on the empathy question among women voters by 25%. Her strident comments came as Democrats buzzed about a possible run by Biden, whose main argument would be his working class appeal. Yet Clinton still beats him on women's issues by 11%.
    Speaking before Democrats in Minneapolis, Clinton dedicated much of her speech to women's issues, ticking off the positions of her Republican rivals. But she was also making an implicit argument to power-brokers in her own party, who are fielding appeals from Biden backers: nominate me and exploit the gender gap even more.
    "And I know that when I talk like this some people think there she goes again with the women's issues. Republicans actually say I am playing the gender card," she said. "Well, if calling for equal pay and paid leave and women's health is playing the gender card, deal me in."