Hillary Clinton rallies about 2,600 supporters in Pueblo, Colorado where election ballots will be mailed to every registered voter.
Video provided by AFP
Rob Kearney is a middle-aged Republican, veteran and father pictured with a blonde-ringleted little girl nestled at his side in a new Hillary Clinton campaign flyer.
It shows how her team is trying to do what was considered impossible a few weeks ago: run up its margins in battleground states by peeling away some of Donald Trump’s core constituency of white male voters.
“Trump’s not politically correct, and that’s fine. But the way he treats women is too much,” Kearney says in his caption. “I can’t look my daughter in the eye and vote for Trump.”
The mailer is part of a broader effort, which includes a new batch of broadcast ads, targeting Republicans in battleground states that Clinton’s campaign is accelerating amid a deluge of sexual assault accusations roiling the real estate billionaire’s presidential bid.
Weeks ago, the Clinton campaign thought its best hope of skimming votes from the GOP was largely limited to moderate, suburban white women. Now it’s making an aggressive play for college-educated, white suburban males as Trump faces a potential collapse in support that could prove unprecedented.
“Especially given the events of the last week, I think we’re going to see a reasonable number of Republicans” reconsider their support, Joel Benenson, Clinton’s top strategist, said in an interview. “It’s now broader than educated white women,” he said.
Trump’s backing is particularly weak among younger Republican males. Among Republican men under the age of 35, he’s taking just 74% of the vote, a number that is typically about 20 points higher, said Mark Blumenthal, elections polling director at SurveyMonkey. With young Republican women, Trump is winning just 62%, according to weekly tracking polls of thousands of voters. The others appear headed toward third-party candidates, for Clinton or perhaps not voting at all, he said.
“It’s the place we’re going to be looking most intently,” Blumenthal said. Typically, at this stage of a campaign, a nominee is consolidating support among base voters, as the third-party vote shrinks into single digits. Even if Clinton can’t run up the margins with them, their refuge with third-party candidates could prove just as helpful.
If the current numbers hold, “that would be extraordinary” for a GOP nominee not to unite the party, said Larry Jacobs, a presidential historian at the University of Minnesota. “Particularly in the past 20 years, the two parties have been like the Hatfields and the McCoys,” he said of the famously feuding families.
Given the partisan rancor, the key aim of the ads is to create a support system for lifelong GOP voters who know they can’t support Trump but feel lost as to where to put their votes. The campaign had been running an ad featuring young girls looking in mirrors as Trump’s comments about women are heard on networks aimed at men, including ESPN, prior to the release of a videotape of Trump bragging about sexually imposing himself on women. The campaign is accelerating that approach amid a flood of news stories about women actually accusing him of sexual assault.
The mailers compliment broadcast ads running in Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Clinton campaign declined to say how much is being dedicated to this effort.
They also have a stable of Republicans like Matt Higgins, a former press secretary to Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s top surrogates, appealing to fellow party members to vote for Clinton. Higgins, also a vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins, threw his support behind Clinton after the convention and has been reaching out to fellow business leaders.
“Opting for none of the above is not an option,” said Higgins, who’s says he’s struggled to explain Trump’s rhetoric to his 9-year-old son. “I’m willing to set aside any views I might have about taxation or anything else because I think preservation of the republic is more important,” he said, noting he supports some of her proposals on infrastructure and helping small business.
The way to do that, said Higgins, is going public. “There’s a lot of people who feel exactly the way I feel privately, but who are concerned about the criticism they’d be subjected to,” he said. “When one person’s willing to do it another person’s willing to do it,” he said.
The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
The Clinton campaign has been communicating with potential Republican voters regularly, including during their Philadelphia convention, when they featured a number of GOP speakers, including Jennifer Pierotti Lim, a lifelong Republican.
Clinton began to sharpen her message to Republicans in June during a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in which she clinched the Democratic nomination. “This election is not, however, about the same old fights between Democrats and Republicans. This election is different. It really is about who we are as a nation. It’s about millions of Americans coming together to say: We are better than this. We won’t let this happen in America,” said Clinton.
It wasn’t until after the July convention featuring real Republican supporters that more came forward.
Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett Packard who served on the campaigns of previous GOP nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain, is one of them. “So many people are against Trump, but the flip to Hillary is an emotional hurdle,” said Whitman, adding that one of those hurdles is grappling with “what will my friends and family think.”
Trump’s conscientious objectors who simply can’t stomach crossing over to Clinton may still end up helping her. A recent Utah poll, for instance, shows Clinton and Trump tied, as third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin, a former CIA operations officer, siphon off a combined 36%. It’s a phenomenon that could help in other states that tilt red, like Arizona and Georgia. Though the campaign has yet to shift more resources into those states, “we’ll be keeping a close eye on it,” Benenson said.
“It’s not a tidal wave, but it’s enough on the margins,” he said, and now “these folks need reassurance or a permission structure to say ‘I’ve been a Republican my whole life but I can’t stomach or tolerate this guy,’” he said.
The roster of Republicans who’ve crossed over to Clinton now includes former Cabinet secretaries, including Hank Paulson, a Treasury secretary for George W. Bush; former Congress members including Sen. John Warner of Virginia; national security experts including Brent Scowcroft and Richard Armitage and administration officials. “After this election the Republican Party has some soul searching to do,” Whitman said..
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