An “unshackled” Donald Trump makes Hillary Clinton’s top aides happy, but it does come with concerns, they said Tuesday.
They are worried that a negative, race to the bottom with Trump could stifle turnout, arguing that it has become clear to them – especially over the last 48 hours – that Trump’s strategy is to run the race into “the sewer.”
The thought goes like this: Trump scorches Republicans, gets nastier with Clinton to the point that she has to respond, voters get turned off and decide that they’ve had enough with this election – so they don’t vote.
“I think that this seems to be their strategy, disgust everyone with our Democratic dialogue so that they won’t come out to the polls,” John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, told reporters aboard Clinton’s campaign plane.
He added: “I think it is very unbecoming a presidential candidate. I guess he fires up the people who go to Alex Jones and Breitbart. But I think it is very unbecoming.”
This view is a change in the way Clinton’s aides initially approached Trump’s candidacy. In early 2016, Clinton’s aides said they felt that Trump’s comments about Latinos, African-Americans and women would boost turnout in those communities, surpassing whatever boost the Republican nominee enjoyed with white, working-class voters.
But as Trump’s campaign has grown more negative – Trump tweeted that the “shackles have been taken off” from the GOP establishment – the view from Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters has changed.
Clinton herself gave voice to turnout concerns.
“Despite all of the terrible things he has said and done, he is still trying to win this election. And we cannot be complacent, we cannot rest,” she told a Florida radio host on Tuesday.
She added, quoting scripture: “Do not go weary while doing good. That applies to this election as well as to our lives and our communities and our faith.”
One way Clinton’s aides feel she can counter Trump’s negativity is to speak about her affirmative message. The issue with that is that incessant releases of hacked emails from Wikileaks and Trump’s flame-throwing comments get more coverage than Clinton’s policy proposals, a fact that irks Clinton’s aides.
To overcome that, Clinton’s aides plan to campaign more with candidates running against vulnerable Republicans in key swing states, hoping to tie those Republicans with Trump.
“For down ballot Republicans, people running for the Senate, people running for the House, are they going to stay in line with this unshackled Donald Trump?” Podesta rhetorically asked. “Are they with him, or are they against him?”
Clinton’s campaign also hopes that their ground game can counteract any apathy that may be out there on this election.
On Tuesday, Lily Adams, Clinton’s director of battleground communications, sent reporters an email that touted higher ballot requests for Democrats than Republicans in Florida, a more diverse electorate in North Carolina and a sizable uptick in Hispanic registration in Nevada.