Clinton: Trump should’ve apologized more, attacked less

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Detroit — Donald Trump should have spent more time apologizing and less time attacking in Sunday’s night’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said Monday, blasting the Republican businessman for crude comments he made about women in 2005.

Clinton’s second visit to the state this general election cycle came less than 24 hours after her combative second debate with Trump, whose campaign is confronting Republican defections over recently surfaced comments he made about kissing and groping women.

Trump apologized Sunday night and said he had not done the things he described. He also attacked Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, over past sexual assault accusations.

“When he was pressed about how he behaved, he just doubled down and his excuse is that it’s just locker room banter,” Clinton said on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit. “Well, I’ll tell you what: Women and men across America know that is just a really weak excuse for behaving badly and mistreating people.”

At one point, security escorted from the Clinton rally a man who was spotted on television cameras behind the candidate wearing a T-shirt with Bill Clinton’s face and the word “rape” on it.

“I do hope somebody follows that man out and stages an intervention,” Clinton said. “He clearly has not been following this election very closely.”

The former secretary of state rallied an estimated crowd of 4,000, stressing the need for strong voter registration and turnout despite her lead in Michigan polls.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, said she doubts Clinton came to Detroit to register new voters. She noted nearly 98 percent of voting age residents in Michigan are registered to vote.

“I think she is making a gratuitous stop,” she said. “We’ll see how long it takes before she’s back here again.”

While Trump has personally campaigned in Michigan more, Clinton has deployed surrogates across Michigan in recent weeks, highlighting a continued focus on a state she narrowly lost in the Democratic primary.

Clinton urged the university crowd to help ensure “the biggest turnout we’ve seen in a really long time.”

“The reason it’s going to be a big turnout is because people really know what’s at stake in this election,” she said.

Clinton opened her speech by saying she agrees with President Barack Obama that Detroit is coming back, contrasting with Trump, who has said Michigan manufacturing is a “disaster” and has played up crime and social welfare in the city.

“It’s going to really depend upon the young people of this university and this city to build a future that we can all not only be proud of, but be part of,” she said.

A recent Detroit News-WDIV poll showed Clinton with a 7 percentage point lead over Trump in Michigan, but high voter participation and turnout are considered critical components of recent Democratic presidential victories in the state. The News poll of 600 likely voters, conducted Sept. 27-28, had a margin of error of plus or minus four points.

“I think Michigan is a maintenance state, where you have to keep your finger firmly on the pulse,” said Democratic strategist Joe DiSano. “That’s why so many Democratic surrogates are coming here. It’s not a sign of being in play. It is a sign of Michigan being more of a purple state.”

A Republican presidential candidate has not won Michigan since 1988. Despite recent polling suggesting Trump may be heading toward the same fate, “it’s not something you can take for granted,” DiSano said.

“In 2004, there was a last-minute effort to save the state for John Kerry,” he said about Kerry’s 51-48 percent victory over President George W. Bush in Michigan but overall defeat nationwide. “I don’t think they want to go through that again.”

Longtime political observer Bill Ballenger agrees.

“Many people feel Kerry and Al Gore lost the national elections because they wasted time in Michigan,” Ballenger said about their October 2000 and 2004 election appearances in Michigan. “Kerry could have been in Ohio or even Florida.”

“They don’t want to take any chances,” he said. “They want to close the deal.”

Michigan voter registration has been lagging behind numbers from 2012, when President Barack Obama won re-election. As of Monday, Michigan had 7,451,224 registered voters, 3,309 fewer voters than were registered prior to the 2012 presidential election, according to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office.

The Clinton campaign is using its four-day Michigan registration drive as a test run for get-out-the-vote operations on Election Day, running a simulation complete with volunteer mobilization.

Clinton, who has struggled to connect with some young voters, urged them to participate in the election.

“I know there’s a lot of negativity, and it’s easy to get cynical about politics,” she said. “But I’ll tell you what, that’s what the other side wants you to think.”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans made a similar plea, saying “apathy is for the other guy, not Hillary,” and that sitting out the election would only help Trump.

Days after WikiLeaks released a trove of campaign emails that included apparent excerpts from paid speeches Clinton had resisted making public, the former secretary of state said she would “end the cowboy culture on Wall Street” and suggested Trump’s tax proposals would only benefit wealthy people like him.

But the Trump campaign argued Clinton is hiding her true intentions from voters.

“Hillary’s ‘dream’ of ‘open trade and open borders’ happens to be Michigan’s worst nightmare,” Trump Michigan state campaign director Scott Hagerstrom said in a statement, referencing WikiLeaks excerpts of a paid speech Clinton made to Latin American bankers in 2013.

Clinton acknowledged the influence former primary rival Bernie Sanders had on her campaign, highlighting their joint proposal to offer free tuition to public universities for children of families who earn less than $125,000 a year.

She also promoted her plans for major infrastructure investments in roads, bridges, tunnels and “water systems like in Flint,” saying she would pay for her plans by “getting the people at the top” to pay more in taxes.

Clinton was introduced by Jim Allen, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1299 union, and hammered Trump on reports the real estate developer ditched U.S. steel for Chinese products on some recent construction projects.

“When China illegally floods our markets with cheap steel, and people like Donald Trump buy it, then it kills good jobs,” she said. “It kills jobs here. It kills jobs in Michigan and lots of other places.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan helped warm up the crowd ahead of Clinton’s speech, also stressing the importance of voter turnout next month.

“If I were to judge based on candidate visits, Michigan is going to be pivotal for the first time in years,” he said. “We have to get every single person out to vote.”

Trump made separate visits last month to Detroit and Flint as he attempted to woo black voters. Duggan said he received hate mail after criticizing the Detroit visit and suggesting Trump was using black residents as props.

“These emails were deplorable,” Duggan said, echoing controversial comments Clinton made about Trump supporters for which she has since apologized. “It was the right word.”

Hundreds of Clinton supporters lined up Monday morning to hear her speak, but first in line was a young man who said he is still not sure who he’ll vote for next month.

“I can say with certainty not Trump, but I can’t say with certainty Hillary,” said Joseph McClusky, a 19-year-old student at Hope College in Holland who drove down to Detroit from his hometown of Burton. “I know I need to decide soon.”

McClusky, who said he leans Republican and voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Michigan’s GOP primary, said he enjoys following campaigns but is disillusioned by his options as he prepares to cast his first vote for president.

“I was never a fan of Donald Trump,” he said, referencing the brash businessman and Republican nominee. “I just don’t think the things he says have any place in politics, or anywhere quite frankly.”

joosting@detroitnews.com