Hillary Clinton ripped Donald Trump's management skills at a time of maximum political vulnerability for the Republican presumptive nominee, whose campaign is in turmoil over weak fundraising and upheaval within his inner circle.
"Trump would throw us back into recession" and cause "millions of Americans to lose their jobs," Clinton said in a speech Tuesday in the battleground state of Ohio, challenging her rival's business record and policy promises and questioning his fitness to lead. She plans to offer her own affirmative case for how she would manage the U.S. economy on Wednesday in North Carolina.
She said his business record suggested a pattern of exploiting working people as well as investors, by routinely not paying bills and using bankruptcy law. "He's written a lot of books about business; they all seem to end in Chapter 11," Clinton said. "Go figure. We can't let him bankrupt America like we are one of his failed casinos."
Her back-to-back speeches in battleground states were planned before Trump dumped his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and the release of campaign finance reports on Monday that showed him lagging behind Clinton by $41 million, a historic gap, at the end of last month.
Clinton's one-two punch is aimed at sharpening the presumptive Democratic nominee's economic message as she heads into the general election and tries to make the case to voters that she's best suited to stimulate growth and create jobs.
Trump, in a sort of live-rebuttal on Twitter and Instagram, said he'll deliver a "big speech" Wednesday to discuss Clinton's failures. He also defended his moniker of King of Debt, which Clinton hammered him for, saying he wouldn't take the same practices into office. "I am 'the king of debt.' That has been great for me as a businessman, but is bad for the country. I made a fortune off debate, will fix U.S.," he wrote.
He charged that as secretary of state Clinton's judgment "has killed thousands, unleashed ISIS and wrecked the economy." And he said Clinton inherits Obama's legacy of assuming office with the national debt of $10 trillion projected to grow to nearly $20 trillion. "They have bankrupted America while making their donors rich!" he wrote.
Trump's responses aimed to steer the focus away from Clinton's point-by-point critiques of his business practices and policy proposals. She said Trump's tax plans would add more than $30 trillion to the national debt over two decades, and that his earlier flirtation with the idea of the U.S. threatening default on debts to negotiate better rates would destroy two centuries of credibility and trigger a "global panic." She raised past comments he made suggesting the pay gap between men and women was merit-based.
Clinton also said Trump's decision to outsource manufacturing of products bearing his name to third-world countries lays bare the hypocrisy of his rhetoric about bringing jobs back to the U.S. She also bashed his refusal to release his tax returns, questioning whether he wasn't paying taxes, or hadn't given to charity, and prodded, "Maybe he isn't as rich as he claims."
"The United States of America doesn't do business Trump's way," Clinton said. "Every day we see how reckless and careless Trump is. Well that's his choice. Except when he's asking to be our president. Then, it's our choice."
Tuesday's speech followed the same model as the foreign policy address Clinton gave earlier this month in San Diego, Calif., in which she pilloried Trump's claims and plans for dealing with other countries. In that speech, she argued that he is unfit to be commander-in-chief.
She referenced her previous foreign policy critique, saying just as Trump shouldn't have his finger on the nuclear "button," she also feels "he should have his hands on our economy."
She said he would repeal Wall Street and consumer protection reforms implemented after the 2008 financial crisis and pledged she would veto any such moves if elected."He'd rig the economy for Wall Street again," Clinton said.
A video released Tuesday by the campaign likewise resembles previous attacks, relying on a combination of press accounts, criticism from some of Trump's fellow Republicans, and unflattering sound bites from the candidate himself to portray him as fundamentally dangerous.
"Trump's economic plan: bad business that's bad for you," onscreen text says at the end of the spot, which also reviews Trump's business troubles and is called "Bad Businessman."
Clinton's foreign policy speech was well-received by voters — crowds at her rallies ahead of the California primary responded with big cheers at any mention of her San Diego remarks— and by pundits, including some Republicans who saw it as more evidence that Trump isn't up to the task of being the party's nominee. Her team hopes for the same kind of response to this week's speeches, which are paired up to give Clinton ample time not only to pummel Trump but also to elucidate her own views on the economy. Her aides believe voters may need more reminders of her economic policies since her most recent role before her second White House bid was as secretary of state.
Trump's case to voters on the economy is largely based on populist anger over the further loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs due to foreign trade deals, but it also hinges on his assurances to voters that the same skills that his own business know-how will lead the U.S. economy to thrive. "What I am far and away greater than an entertainer is a businessman, and that's the kind of mindset this country needs to bring it back, because we owe $19 trillion right now … and you need this kind of thinking to bring our country back," he said at a Republican primary debate last year.
In the lead-up to the two speeches, the Clinton campaign eagerly promoted a study released Monday by Moody's Analytics, which concluded that Trump's policy positions would under almost any scenario mean "the U.S. economy will be more isolated and diminished" if he were elected. The study's authors noted that they had difficulty analyzing his plans since "quantifying Mr. Trump's economic policies is complicated by their lack of specificity."
The paper's lead author, Mark Zandi, advised Republican John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign, but is a registered Democrat and has donated to Clinton's campaign. His team plans a similar analysis of Clinton's economic proposals.