Hillary Clinton has recently picked up attacking down ballot Republicans
The Democratic nominee appears determined to capitalize on her opponent's free fall
After nearly five months of ripping into Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton suddenly has a new list of enemies on the campaign trail: Republican candidates in competitive down-ballot races.
Clinton’s pivot is an unmistakable sign that she and her top aides have never felt more confident about victory on November 8.
The Democratic nominee’s path to 270 electoral votes has drastically widened in the course of a few weeks, as she has pulled ahead in battleground states and made gains in traditionally Republican strongholds like Utah and Arizona. Trump – weighed down by a stream of controversies surrounding his past treatment of women – has only further alienated himself from fellow Republicans with his stubborn refusal to say he will accept the results of the election.
Determined to capitalize on her opponent’s recent struggles, Clinton has picked up her pace of campaigning, and in the final two weeks of the 2016 race, she will crisscross the country to vouch for Democrats in tough congressional races.
Her ultimate goal is to secure a Democratic-controlled Senate – crucial to a Clinton administration’s ability to set an aggressive first-term agenda.
Clinton kicked off the week by traveling north to Manchester, New Hampshire, where she joined forces with popular liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren to slam Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The first-term senator is facing a tough reelection against the state’s Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.
“Unlike her opponent, she has never been afraid to stand up to Donald Trump,” Clinton said of Hassan. “She knows he shouldn’t be a role model for our kids or anybody else, for that matter.”
Warren also skewered Ayotte, pointing out the senator’s vacillating support for Trump. “Day one she loves him, day two she hates him, day three, she’ back with him – boy, spins round and round,” she said.
And in reference to Trump calling Clinton a “nasty woman” in the final debate, Warren added: “Nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote.”
Warren’s comments exemplified how deeply some down-ballot Republicans are feeling the consequences of having drawn ambiguous lines around Trump, even as he repeatedly made offensive remarks.
Earlier this month, Ayotte said during a debate that she would “absolutely” point to her party’s nominee as a role model for children – remarks that drew immediate criticism and that Ayotte swiftly walked back, saying she “misspoke.” Ayotte ultimately pulled her support for Trump altogether after the unveiling of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump was caught discussing in crude terms groping women without their consent.
Clinton’s focus on down-ballot races marks a stark contrast from even a few weeks ago, when the former secretary of state was solely focused on her own race, including raising money and preparing for three general election debates against Trump.
Over the past few days, Clinton has looked to boost Democratic candidates in part by condemning their Republican opponents who have either stood by Trump or have not outright disavowed him.
Clinton needs a Democratic Senate to serve as a firewall against a House of Representatives that will likely remain under GOP control next year. Having a majority in the Senate will be key in allowing Clinton to bring up her top legislative priorities in Congress, and help shepherd through Clinton’s executive and judicial appointments.
On Saturday in Pennsylvania, both Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, slammed GOP Sen. Pat Toomey for not rejecting Trump. They argued that Toomey was making a selfish political calculation that showed he would not stand with Pennsylvania voters – many of whom are opposed to the Republican presidential nominee.
After listing some of Trump’s more salacious and controversial comments, Clinton said: “If (Toomey) doesn’t have the courage to stand up to Donald Trump after all of this, then can you be sure that he will stand up for you when it counts?”
Clinton then traveled to North Carolina on Sunday, where she touted Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross as “exactly that kind of partner I need in the United States Senate.”
“She will help me break through the gridlock,” Clinton said, making an explicit reference to what is expected to be a closely divided Congress next year.
Top Democratic surrogates – including President Barack Obama – are deploying the same strategy.
Campaigning for Patrick Murphy, Florida’s Democratic Senate candidate, earlier this month, Obama lambasted GOP Sen. Marco Rubio for standing with Trump.
“How can you call him a con artist and dangerous and object to all the controversial things he says, and then say, ‘I’m still going to vote for him?’” Obama said earlier this month. “Come on, man!”