Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly that she wants to end the 2016 campaign “the way I started my career: Fighting for children and families.”
“As soon as I got out of law school, I said, ‘I don’t want to do anything else other than work hard and advocate for kids and families,’” the Democratic nominee said last month at Ohio State University.
But in reality, Clinton heads into the final days of what has been a dark and divisive campaign by striking a somber – and at times even alarming – note about her opponent, Donald Trump.
Crisscrossing the country to win over undecided voters in battleground states over the past few days, Clinton has been warning voters about what a Trump presidency would look like, casting the Republican nominee as a sexist bully who is temperamentally unfit and unqualified to be commander in chief.
On Monday, Clinton was introduced in Kent, Ohio, by a former ballistic missiles officer, who said he would “live in constant fear of his making a bad call” under a President Trump.
“Imagine him plunging us into a war because someone got under his very thin skin,” Clinton said about Trump. “I know there are some who would that any discussion of this topic (nuclear weapons) could be fear-mongering, but I don’t think so.”
The next day, she went after Trump’s past offensive comments about women, bringing to the stage in Dade City, Florida, former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom Trump criticized years ago when she gained weight.
“I mean, really,” Clinton said incredulously, “can we just stop for a minute and reflect on the absurdity of Donald Trump finding fault with Miss Universe?”
Hours later, in Fort Lauderdale, Clinton expressed exasperation when a man in the audience heckled her in the middle of her speech.
“I am sick and tired of the negative, dark, divisive, dangerous visions and behaviors from people who support Donald Trump,” Clinton said, gesturing at the man.
And in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Clinton asked the audience to imagine Trump sitting in the Oval Office on January 20 – an exercise that prompted one audience member to yell out, “Scary!”
“What would it be like to have a president who pits people against each other, who doesn’t try to pull America together? What would your life be like?” Clinton asked.
“Horrible!” someone in the audience shouted.
Throughout the general election, campaign aides have acknowledged that running against a theatrical and controversy-prone candidate like Trump has made it difficult for Clinton to stay focused on her own affirmative message.
To share the candidate’s personal story more forcefully, Clinton recently delivered a series of “Stronger Together” speeches centered around her views on issues like public service and faith. She has struck a notably upbeat tone when discussing her own biography and vision, presenting herself as the positive alternative to Trump.
“I am proud that from the beginning that our campaign was about ideas, not insults,” Clinton said in San Francisco in October. “A campaign about bringing people together, solving our problems in a spirit of mutual respect.”
Asked about Clinton’s grim rhetoric in the final days, her spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, said Wednesday that it simply reflected “a very dark candidacy on the other side.”
“The fact is, the choice the Donald Trump represents is pretty dark,” Palmieri told reporters. “This is what the choice is. This is the last week America had to make their choice and she wants to make sure people understand what that choice is.”