Inside the Clinton team's plan to defeat Trump

Several Democrats argued that Mrs. Clinton, should she be her party’s nominee, would easily beat Mr. Trump. They were confident that his incendiary remarks about immigrants, women and Muslims would make him unacceptable to many Americans. They had faith that the growing electoral power of black, Hispanic and female voters would deliver a Clinton landslide if he were the Republican nominee.

But others, including former President Bill Clinton, dismissed those conclusions as denial. They said that Mr. Trump clearly had a keen sense of the electorate’s mood and that only a concerted campaign portraying him as dangerous and bigoted would win what both Clintons believe will be a close November election.

That strategy is beginning to take shape, with groups that support Mrs. Clinton preparing to script and test ads that would portray Mr. Trump as a misogynist and an enemy to the working class whose brash temper would put the nation and the world in grave danger. The plan is for those themes to be amplified later by two prominent surrogates: To fight Mr. Trump’s ability to sway the news cycle, Mr. Clinton would not hold back on the stump, and President Obama has told allies he would gleefully portray Mr. Trump as incapable of handling the duties of the Oval Office…

“The case against Trump will be prosecuted on two levels,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster and Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist in 2008. “The first is temperament,” and whether he is suited to be commander in chief, Mr. Garin said, echoing conversations that have dominated Democratic circles recently. The second “will be based on whether he can really be relied on as a champion for anyone but himself.”