After slamming Trump
for days as a disaster on national security in the aftermath of last
weekend's Orlando massacre, Clinton unleashed a similar attack on her Republican rival
this time, on the economy.
The former secretary of state delivered her first general election economic speech in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday morning, in remarks that once again attempted to dismantle Trump's policy prescriptions and cast the businessman as a danger to the U.S. economy.
"You might think that because he has spent his life as a businessman, he'd be better prepared to handle the economy. Well, it turns out, he's dangerous there, too," Clinton told supporters here. "Just like he shouldn't have his finger on the button, he shouldn't have his hands on our economy."
In lengthy remarks, Clinton challenged Trump's policy proposals point by point, from his suggestion to pay off the national debt by printing money to his stance on Wall Street reform to his tax plan. She warned: "Our nation's economy isn't a game."
"Every day we see how reckless and careless Trump is. He's proud of it," she said. "Well, that's his choice, except when he's asking to be president. Then it's our choice."
The speech was filled with memorable zingers. Slamming Trump for lacking a substantive strategy on job-creation, Clinton said: "But maybe we shouldn't expect better from someone whose famous words are: 'You're fired.'"
And as Clinton went after Trump's business record, she mused: "He's written a lot of books about business. They all seem to end at Chapter 11."
Clinton's pivot to the economy comes at a moment of peril for the Trump campaign.
The first-time political candidate is under siege for a series of missteps since clinching his party's nomination, including his response to the Orlando terrorist attack, repeated criticism of a federal judge's Mexican heritage, and renewed calls to ban Muslims from entering the country. Acknowledging the gravity of his political troubles, Trump on Monday fired his top aide
and campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
Scrambling to refocus his campaign, Trump plans to deliver a speech
in New York Wednesday attacking Clinton.
But even as Trump struggles to find his footing as he transitions to the general election, the populist candidate has an edge over Clinton on the economy. Fifty-one percent of registered voters believe Trump would handle the economy better than Clinton, compared to 43% who gave better marks to Clinton, according to a CNN/ORC international poll
released Tuesday morning.
Still, Democrats believe Clinton has a powerful story to tell on the economic progress the country has made under President Barack Obama's watch.
When Obama first took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate was rapidly rising, and would peak at 10 months later at 10%. This year, the unemployment rate fell below 5% for the first time in eight years, dipping to 4.7% in May.
Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said a successful message on the economy for Clinton must be multi-dimensional. She must find away to tout Obama's successes and explicitly acknowledge why so many Americans still feel stuck in a rut, Bernstein said and, at the same time, continue to drive home why Trump's economic platform would be catastrophic.
"The important thing is to continue the President's message but explain how you'll improve upon the policy agenda," said Bernstein, who has not endorsed a candidate in the 2016 race. "She has to argue that she'll take the ball and run with it, whereas the other guy, (Trump), will sacrifice the gains we've made already just on the basis of bombast and unfamiliarity on how the economy actually works."
One data point that helps Clinton make her case against Trump: A Moody's Analytic report that concluded Trump's economic policies would reduce employment by 3.5 million jobs during his first term in office.
"The upshot of Mr. Trump's economic policy positions under almost any scenario is that the U.S. economy will be more isolated and diminished," the report said
Clinton referenced the report in her remarks at the Fort Hayes Vocational School on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Clinton heads to Raleigh, North Carolina, where she plans to offer a detailed outline of her own economic platform.
Clinton's Columbus speech in part mirrors her remarks in San Diego
earlier this month, in which she delivered a blistering critique of Trump's foreign policy preparedness. Clinton and her Democratic allies began using the remarks to raise money and saw an uptick in response, according to aides.
As Clinton was giving the speech, aides said, it became clear that the San Diego formula of using Trump's own words to discredit him in an almost roast-style condemnation had the potential to be effective on other topics, including the economy.
Clinton's San Diego speech also clearly resonated with her supporters, based on the reaction from her crowds in the week that followed, when Clinton barnstormed California ahead of the state's primary.
Clinton herself was intimately involved in writing the San Diego speech, according to aides, working on the remarks up until the moment she took the stage.She was expected to have played a similar role in craftingTuesday's speech in Columbus.
The San Diego remarks also highlighted Trump's inadequate rapid response operation. The candidate waited hours to respond substantively to the critique -- a fact that Democrats close to Clinton saw as a win in the days after the speech.
On Tuesday, the Trump campaign tried a new strategy, releasing a series of emails and tweets challenging Clinton in real-time.
"Hillary says this election is about judgment. She's right. Her judgement has killed thousands, unleashed ISIS and wrecked the economy," Trump tweeted
during Clinton's remarks.
Minutes later, Trump wrote
: "How can Hillary run the economy when she can't even send emails without putting entire nation at risk?"
The Republican National Committee also reacted, calling Clinton "the last person qualified to talk about what will get our economy thriving again."
"Donald Trump is a successful businessman who has spent his career creating thousands of jobs," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "The closest Hillary Clinton has come to business success was putting her office at the State Department up for sale to foreign donors and special interests."