WASHINGTON – Even as Hillary Clinton continues to absorb fire from a primary challenger on her left, she has begun executing a methodical general election strategy aimed chiefly at winning over voters in the center.
Her campaign has laid out a road map for controlling crucial battleground states that centers on the anxieties of independents and moderate Republican voters, particularly women, who are alarmed by what they have heard from likely GOP nominee Donald Trump.
The Clinton campaign sees in those moderates a rich opportunity to build on the coalition of voters who twice propelled Barack Obama into the Oval Office. Polls suggest moderate voters, at least for now, lean against the GOP standard-bearer in numbers that outpace those from recent presidential races.
The target voters are found in large numbers in suburban parts of key swing states, areas such as the outskirts of Denver, the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Florida’s I-4 corridor. Clinton is aggressively courting them with an approach designed to reduce her risk by limiting direct engagement with her Republican rival while calling attention to his shoot-from-the-hip pronouncements and nationalistic appeals that unnerve many voters.
It’s an approach Trump might wave away as “low energy” — and it is that way by design. Faced with an opponent who relishes confrontation and drama, the Clinton campaign sees an opportunity in playing up the former secretary of state’s detailed knowledge of policy, even at the risk of sometimes appearing dull.
That approach can serve both as a defense against Trump’s inevitable attacks and as a way to undermine his appeal, the Clinton camp hopes. The goal is to tap into skepticism among voters that Trump has the experience and temperament to deliver on his promises of a better economy and a more secure world.
The Democrats have already begun to stoke those concerns with advertisements highlighting some of Trump’s most controversial statements. The assault will intensify next month, as the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA kicks off a $130 million advertising campaign in seven key swing states.
“We are going to make a very clear case,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman for Priorities USA. “Donald Trump is simply too risky and too dangerous a person to be president of the United States.”
In the meantime, to heighten the contrast, Clinton has been laying out an exhaustive buffet of often incremental policy proposals about easing the economic, health care and national security anxieties that consume the moderate middle.
“This is not empty promises or demagoguery,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “We are focused on showing people she has the practical, achievable, concrete plans that can make the economy work for more people.”