As Trump and Clinton, fresh off big wins in five Northeastern
state primaries on Tuesday, circled each other for a potential
matchup in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election, his comments
portended what could be an unusually nasty campaign.
Like other controversial remarks during his White House campaign,
Trump's comments drew criticism from a wide spectrum but also
reinforced his image - which has been attractive to some supporters
- for plain talk that defies political norms.
"The only thing she's got going is the fact that she's a woman,"
Trump, 69, said on Thursday on NBC's "Today" show, refusing to back
down from targeting Clinton, 68, for what he called "playing the
Trump's remarks, reaching into an area of gender attacks that is
conventionally seen as off-limits, energized Democrats.
"Keep talking, Donald Trump," Democratic Committee National
Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CNN on Wednesday. "Every
single day when Donald Trump opens his mouth, he does more to
Trump, unfazed by the criticism, told supporters in Evansville,
Indiana, that he has gotten a bad rap.
"Nobody cherishes and nobody respects women more than Donald Trump,"
he said after being introduced by famed former Indiana University
basketball coach Bobby Knight. "I will be so much better to women
than Hillary Clinton."
Trump, who can be as free with his personal attacks on men, has
consistently polled poorly with women. Democrats and Republicans
both accuse Trump of sexism over verbal insults lobbed at Fox News
anchor Megyn Kelly and former Republican presidential candidate
On Wednesday, Trump's closest Republican rival, U.S. Senator Ted
Cruz of Texas, named Fiorina, 61, as his running mate should he win
the party's nomination, a move that could help him draw women's
"Donald has a problem with strong women," Cruz, 45, told reporters
in Fort Wayne, Indiana, before a rally. "This is not subtle, it's
U.S. Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who fended off a 2010 Senate
challenge from Fiorina, said Trump is insulting all women when he
attacks Clinton and other prominent women, such as Kelly, in this
"Either Trump has spent too much time in his Trump Tower and has no
clue about what’s happening, or he truly dislikes women and are
quite threatened by them," Boxer said on MSNBC.
'BREAKING ALL THE RULES'
But Trump said women would support his positions on security and
jobs. U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers, a Republican who has
endorsed him, said she believed Trump could overcome his
unpopularity with women voters with his straight talk.
"To me, this is breaking all the rules, this is going against any of
the typical history books and elections of the past," she said.
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Trump's top aide and other supporters said focusing on Clinton’s
gender was part of Trump’s emerging strategy for the general
election and that he had no intention of hewing to traditional
"When he is attacked, he will respond," Trump’s campaign manager,
Corey Lewandowski, told Reuters. "The campaign is going to proceed
under the mantra, which we’ve had in this campaign from Day One,
which is: Let Mr. Trump be Mr. Trump."
A Reuters/Ipsos poll this month showed a big gender gap in opinions
about Trump. About two-thirds of women had an unfavorable view of
the billionaire businessman and former reality TV star, while 54
percent of men had a negative view of him.
In her political career, Clinton has sometimes benefited from
missteps by male candidates. Her 2000 U.S. Senate rival, New York
Republican Rick Lazio, was seen as a bully when he stepped close to
her on stage during a debate to demand she sign a pledge.
Early in her first presidential campaign in 2008, Clinton accused
her male opponents of "piling on" and said that would prompt more
women to support her. Then-Senator Barack Obama's comments during a
debate in New Hampshire that year that she was "likable enough” were
seen by some as patronizing, and as helping her win the state's
If Trump wins the nomination, his willingness to raise Clinton's
gender and other issues could make for one of the most contentious
general election campaigns in recent history.
"I don't think there's going to be any taboos with Donald Trump,"
said James Pethokoukis, a scholar with the conservative American
Enterprise Institute. "He's not going to treat her with any sort of
Retired U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, weighed in on
the presidential race during a talk at Stanford University on
Wednesday, according to the student newspaper, saying he could vote
for his golfing and "texting buddy" Trump but harshly criticizing
"Lucifer in the flesh,” Boehner said of Cruz, who is a staunch
fiscal conservative and who angered many of his colleagues in
Congress by leading a government shutdown in 2013.
"I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a
more miserable son of a bitch in my life," Boehner said.
Cruz said Boehner was allowing "his inner Trump" to come out.
"What made John Boehner mad is that I led a movement of the people
to hold Washington accountable," Cruz told reporters.
(Additional reporting by Chris Kahn in New York and Ginger Gibson
and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Caren Bohan, Peter Cooney
and Frances Kerry)
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