It begins … or actually, it continues. NBC’s Today reports that “the race is getting nastier than ever,” but Donald Trump actually revived this attack on Hillary and Bill Clinton from earlier this year (via The Hill):
“Nobody in this country was was worse than Bill Clinton with women. He was a disaster,” Trump said at a rally in Eugene, Ore. “I mean there’s never been anybody like this and she was a total enabler. She would go after these women and destroy their lives. I mean have you ever read what Hillary Clinton did to the women that Bill Clinton had affairs with? And they’re going after me with women. Give me a break, folks.” …
“Bill Clinton was the worst in history and I have to listen to her talking about it?” Trump said. “And just remember this, she was unbelievably nasty, mean enabler and what she did to a lot of those women is disgraceful. So put that in her bonnet and let’s see what happens, OK?”
The Hill does note that this not the first attack on Bill’s affairs and Hillary’s attacks on the women that came forward. Trump warned at the end of last year that any attempt to “play the woman’s card with respect to me” would make these topics “fair game.” And even before Hillary played the “woman’s card,” Trump attacked Hillary as an enabler. In January, Chris Wallace asked Trump whether the attacks would backfire and leave her looking like a victim, at which Trump scoffed:
Around the same time, Trump also trotted out the same attack on Meet the Press:
And again on Morning Joe in January too, comparing Bill Clinton to Bill Cosby. Trump insisted that he’d wait until Hillary played the “dirty card”:
Undoubtedly, this will play well with the committed Trump supporters and the #NeverHillary contingent, who are itching for a no-holds-barred fight with the Clintons. It may play well with other Republicans who believe that Mitt Romney and John McCain failed to take the gloves off in their failed presidential bids. That could help turn out voters — in deep-red areas. But will other voters, especially those in swing states that will decide the election, care about affairs and scandals from the 1990s? Most voters in these areas don’t want a return to the 1990s or personal-attack politics. And in talking with some voters in these areas, I found at least anecdotal evidence that the emphasis on negative attacks against Obama turned off some persuadable voters in battleground states and counties who never heard a positive and specific agenda from Romney and the GOP in 2012.
Still, it’s early, and Trump could be doing this to ensure that the base remains happy and the nomination remains secure. In that context, this attack strategy makes plenty of sense, but it remains to be seen whether Trump will revive it after the convention — or will pivot to a different campaign strategy aimed at the persuadables.