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Clinton Tries To Win Over Working-Class Voters In Trump Country

Aug 1, 2016
Originally published on August 1, 2016 5:57 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have hit the campaign trail. Trump is in Ohio scheduled to hold a town hall in Columbus later today. Meanwhile, Clinton is on her way out of that swing state. She's headed to Nebraska after a weekend bus tour that took her more than 500 miles from Hatfield, Pa. on Friday evening, stopping along the way until she reached Columbus, Ohio last night.

And that's where we're catching up with NPR's Tamara Keith. Good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, no surprise that she's there. Ohio is a target for both presidential campaigns. In fact, it's a key state every year, right?

KEITH: Every election year, certainly. It's sort of the ultimate American swing state. And Donald Trump's general election strategy runs right through Pennsylvania and Ohio and counts on the white working-class voters in both of those states. And so Hillary Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine rode their bright blue buses right through what has become Donald Trump country into parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio where his message resonates.

And here's Clinton at one of the stops.

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HILLARY CLINTON: We are visiting places that prove what Americans can do.

KEITH: This was Clinton at Johnstown Wire Technologies in a county where the population is overwhelmingly white and where Mitt Romney won in 2012. Stop after stop, Clinton outlined her job creation plan, which includes a big investment in infrastructure and supporting small businesses. When the buses pulled into Youngstown, Ohio Saturday night, it was well after 10 p.m.

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CLINTON: As you can tell, I'm pretty excited. It may be late, but I'm really jazzed up about what we're going to do.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And I don't think the stakes could be higher.

KEITH: The message from Clinton, in short, she has plans. Trump has talk.

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CLINTON: He talks about putting America first, right? Well, then why does he make Trump suits in Mexico instead of Brooklyn, Ohio?

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Why does he make furniture in Turkey instead of Cleveland?

KEITH: Youngstown, where Clinton spoke, used to be a solidly Democratic town. But over the decades, it's been hard hit by a decline in manufacturing. Rick Clark and Jim Green came to see Clinton and Kaine.

RICK CLARK: Unfortunately, there are folks in this town that really believe that the '50s, the '60s and the '70s are going to come back. And...

JIM GREEN: They're just not. We just have to move forward. And it's built up a lot of anger. And it's sort of scary.

KEITH: They both plan to vote for Clinton. But Clark says they have friends and acquaintances who are sold on Trump. And there's probably not much Clinton could do to change their minds.

CLARK: The fear that we have is that their anger is so deep that they won't even listen to something like this.

KEITH: Polls show Clinton losing non-college-educated white men by huge margins. But her campaign isn't ready to cede that ground just yet. That's what the bus tour was all about, going into less-than-friendly territory with the hopes of cutting into Trump's support in states he has to win if he's going to have a chance in November.

MONTAGNE: And, of course, Tamara, at the heart of this campaign, as you're just saying, is the economy and jobs. But that issue is not eating up headlines like the string of controversies that Donald Trump has been unschooling for months. And this past weekend, it was all about the Khan family.

KEITH: Yeah, that's right. Hillary Clinton was probably the only person in the political world talking about the economy this weekend. This has been a multi-day controversy for Donald Trump. It all started when Khizr Khan spoke at the Democratic Convention. He's the father of a fallen Muslim American soldier, a hero, killed in Iraq. And he was critical of Donald Trump.

Then over the weekend in interviews and tweets, Trump punched back. But the negative reaction was swift because you basically have a presidential candidate going after a Gold Star Family. And Khan didn't back down this weekend either. Here he was on CNN.

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KHIZR KHAN: I want his family to counsel him. Teach him some empathy. He will be a better person if he could become. But he is a black soul. And this is totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country.

KEITH: Late yesterday, Trump's running mate put out a statement seemingly trying to clean up some of Trump's remarks. And Mike Pence said all Gold Star Families should be cherished.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Tamara Keith on the campaign trail in Columbus, Ohio. Thanks very much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: And Donald Trump has continued to speak out about the Muslim parents of a fallen American soldier. This morning, he tweeted, and I'm quoting, "this story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather radical Islamic terrorism and the U.S. Get smart," exclamation mark. That from Donald Trump. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.