Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton swiped at Donald Trump on Thursday for insulting a Republican rival’s looks and said she’d “love to debate him” if he prevails in the GOP race.
“There is one particular candidate who just seems to delight in insulting women every chance he gets,” Clinton told a cheering crowd of several hundred supporters. She named no names but was referring to Trump’s remark that Carly Fiorina‘s face would make her unelectable.
“I have to say, if he emerges I would love to debate him,” Clinton said, a comment that presumed she would prevail, too, in a Democratic race that has become more of a struggle for her than anticipated.
Clinton is working to marshal female voters behind her presidential bid, hoping they will help stabilize her campaign in the face of declining poll numbers and continued questions over her email practices as secretary of state.
At her rally in Columbus, Clinton made the case that her economic proposals would be better for women, before turning to Trump’s latest provocative comment.
In Rolling Stone, he was quoted as saying about Fiorina: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
Trump tried to walk back those remarks on Thursday, telling CNN he wasn’t talking about Fiorina’s “looks” but her “persona.”
In calling out Trump for a history of crude remarks about women – he said Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” – Clinton was in some sense coming to the defense of Fiorina, a former technology executive who has been one of her most cutting critics in the GOP field.
Fiorina herself brushed off Trump’s remark in an interview with Kelly Wednesday night, saying, “The comments speak for themselves” and “I’m not going to spend a single cycle wondering what Donald Trump means.”
“But maybe, just maybe,” she said, “I’m getting under his skin a little bit, because I am climbing in the polls.”
While Ohio is not expected to play an important role in the Democratic primary campaign, the state has long been a crucial general election battleground. Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the 2008 Ohio primary on her way to losing the nomination race, and exit polling found that white women were the key to her victory in the state.
On Thursday, the modest-sized ballroom in downtown Columbus was half empty, with Clinton supporters herded into a cordoned-off area to give the impression of a packed crowd.
She vowed to her mostly female audience that she would fight for equal pay, abortion rights, paid sick leave and paid maternity leave.
“As president I know I can and I must take care of the big problems,” she said, “but I also want to be the president that helps work on those problems that keep you up at night.”
Recent polls suggest she is neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Continued questions about her use of a private email while server as secretary of state have fed Republican arguments that she is untrustworthy and considers herself above the normal rules.
“Controversy seems to follow me around,” Clinton joked in Ohio. “That’s sort of part of the territory.”
Sanders’ uncompromisingly liberal message is attracting large crowds across the country. In Ohio, Clinton took a different tack, vowing to work with Republicans as well as Democrats to break through the “dysfunctional mess in Washington.”
“I’ve been accused of being a moderate,” Clinton said. “I plead guilty.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.