Trump, aiming to offset money
disadvantage, escalates Clinton attacks
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[May 25, 2016]
By Ginger Gibson and Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Donald
Trump this week took his use of sordid accusations against Democrat
Hillary Clinton to levels unprecedented in modern U.S. presidential
campaigns, in the latest example of the Republican's unorthodox
The presumptive Republican nominee is working to gain stronger
footing and offset a big advantage Clinton is likely to have ahead
of the Nov. 8 presidential election - a huge campaign war chest that
she and her allies intend to use to launch a barrage of attacks
Trump is using the same strategy he used repeatedly during the
Republican nomination fight against rivals like Ted Cruz - making
incendiary statements that U.S. television networks can't resist
covering, giving him hours of free media and putting his opponents
on the defensive.
The strategy may already be working.
Trump has raised more than a few eyebrows with his latest round of
attacks against Clinton. He has turned history into headlines that
play like a virtual reel in the 24-hour news world of cable TV and
Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowsi, said the strategy makes
"Clearly, she's going to have massive amounts of money," Lewandowski
told Reuters. "The difference is Mr. Trump has funded his campaign.
What weíve been able to do in this campaign cycle is to generate
earned media based on Mr. Trumpís ability to be a straight talker,
and genuine and authentic, and I think thatís what drives the news
Trump's latest salvos include a rape accusation against former
President Bill Clinton dating to the 1970s and the suicide of an
aide to the former president in 1993 - events that the campaign
links to Hillary Clinton.
An online video released by Trump has various women accusing the
former president of rape or unwanted sexual advances. Trump accused
Hillary Clinton of helping to silence the women. The Clintons and
their supporters have dismissed the charges as baseless and
Then, in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump suggested that
the Clintons may have been involved in the 1993 death of Vince
Foster, a former aide to Bill Clinton and a friend of Hillary
Clinton, even though more than five investigations, including one
conducted by Republican special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, concluded
Foster committed suicide in a Virginia park.
Trump was alluding to theories over the years that have been
circulated in tabloid publications, in the depths of the internet
and in books by the Clintons' foes.
The attacks have put Clinton on her back foot.
Trump "just continues to gobble news cycle after news cycle," said
Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who ran the Super PACs that
backed Senator Ted Cruz in the primary and aggressively attacked
Trump. "Clinton is spending less time campaigning about the future
and more time explaining the past than she would probably like.Ē
The barrage puts Clinton in a bind. So far, she has opted to ignore
Trump's personal attacks and her campaign has offered general
pushback. But Clinton risks the negative onslaught dragging down her
standing in the public and irreversibly damaging her general
"I played a lot of hardball in my life, but I don't envy what the
Clinton campaign is up against here. Trump himself has totally
changed the political dynamic," said Jim Manley, a Democratic
strategist who supports Clinton. "What they can't afford to do is
get in the gutter with the guy. He has absolutely no morals or
scruples. Getting into the gutter with him is an absolute waste of
Clinton's campaign and the Super PACs supporting her won't be
without funds to try to combat the attacks and launch her own. At
the end of April, she had $30 million in her campaign account,
compared with Trump's $2 million.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses members of
the National Rifle Association during their NRA-ILA Leadership Forum
during at their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20,
2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
And the PAC supporting her, which can raise and spend unlimited
amounts of money, had $46 million at the end of April - a total that
is likely to grow over the summer. The PAC backing Trump is just
getting off the ground.
Clinton will also depend on an army of surrogates to try to combat
Trump without having to respond to him herself.
Trump has already proven he can dispatch opponents without spending
much money by defining them to voters through aggressive appearances
on news programs.
Republican rival Jeb Bush had a more than $100 million advantage
going into the primary. But Trump painted him as "low energy" and
defined him as inept, a characterization Bush's money was never able
The PACs backing Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz spent
millions assailing Trump. Trump was able to leverage extensive
coverage of his campaign by the media to combat their attacks while
spending little money on advertising.
Trump has been proven an expert at raising attack lines that have
already been settled, but insisting that questions remain. He spent
years demanding that President Barack Obama produce his birth
certificate, despite myriad evidence that he was born in Hawaii
including government records of the president's birth in Honolulu.
For Trump, some of the attacks are targeted at young voters - those
in their early 20s and 30s were too young to have been immersed in
news about the scandals of the Clinton years.
"You have a whole series of the population who either (a) donít know
anything about it, or (b) werenít paying attention at the time,"
A Clinton ally said Trump is simply trying to distract attention
from his own liabilities - such as refusing to release his tax
returns and his own history of problems with women.
"The more he raises these outrageous and outlandish charges," said
U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra, of California, a Democratic
leader in the House, "the more he keeps you pedaling in a different
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Leslie
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