Tuesday 17 July 2018

Clinton goes for Trump jugular in battle for White House votes

Hillary Clinton sets out her stall during a rally at Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (AP)
Hillary Clinton sets out her stall during a rally at Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (AP)

Hillary Clinton has followed up her Democratic convention success with a scalding rhetoric against her Republican rival Donald Trump, telling prospective voters they face a "stark choice" in the November general election.

But the former US secretary of state and first lady encountered another distraction as her aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign.

Rallying in Colorado, Mr Trump denounced Mrs Clinton's convention speech as "full of lies" and said he was starting to agree with those calling for her to be locked up.

Not long afterwards, the intrusion into a system used by the Clinton campaign came to light. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks.

Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly-disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee voter analysis programme used by the campaign and other organisations. The hackers had access to the programme for about five days.

Mr Merrill said outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised" but gave no detail on the programme or nature of the attacks.

President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack, and the House of Representatives Democratic campaign committee reported that its information had been accessed.

The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furore, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats were launching their convention.

Mrs Clinton is in the midst of a post-convention campaign bus tour through the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

She told supporters in a West Philadelphia arena the coming election was the most important one in her lifetime.

"It's not so much that I'm on the ticket, it's because of the stark choice that's posed to Americans in this election," she said.

In Colorado Springs, billionaire tycoon Mr Trump at times seemed to brush off the fierce convention-week Democratic criticism, which went so far as to question his sanity.

Sounding more like a pundit than the subject of all the vitriol, he pronounced Mrs Clinton's speech "so average" and "full of cliches". But he grew harsher as his event went on.

"Remember this," he said, "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his crowd's anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up."

"I've been saying let's just beat her on November 8," he said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you."

Polls find that most Americans question Mrs Clinton's honesty. But in her convention speech and her first events afterwards, her priority was to go after Mr Trump, not ask for trust.

Joined on the bus tour by her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, running mate Tim Kaine and his wife Anne Holton, Mrs Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Mr Kaine cast Mr Trump as a con artist out for his own gain.

"We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," she said, addressing local officials and employees on the factory floor.

Mr Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, as states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Mrs Clinton and was perhaps a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity.

Mrs Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation.

Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, women and young voters that twice elected Barack Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Mr Trump's message.

Democrats contrasted their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Mr Trump and others at the Republican convention a week earlier. Mr Kaine told CNN he found the Republican gathering "dark and depressing".

The convention provided hours of glowing tributes to Mrs Clinton, including deeply personal testimonials from her husband, daughter Chelsea and Mr Obama.

And Mrs Clinton offered an open hand to backers of Mr Sanders, saying, "I've heard you. Your cause is our cause."

But Mr Trump said Mr Sanders "sold his soul to the devil" when he - unlike some of his loudly protesting supporters - threw his support behind Mrs Clinton.


Press Association

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