As Trump trips, Clinton seeks independents, Republican defectors
Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Wednesday stepped up its effort to bring in Republicans and independent voters disenchanted with her Republican rival Donald Trump, launching an outreach effort to woo conservative support for her White House bid.
The recruiting effort by the Democratic presidential nominee came a day after Trump drew criticism for saying gun rights advocates could stop her from nominating liberal Supreme Court justices.
The turmoil among Republicans was reflected in a Reuters/IPSOS poll on Wednesday that showed nearly one-in-five registered Republicans voters wanted Trump to drop out ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
The Clinton campaign on Wednesday unveiled a website, togetherforamerica.com, for Republicans and independents to sign up in support of Clinton. It listed 50 prominent Republicans and independents who have endorsed her so far, including Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush, and former Republican U.S. Representative Chris Shays of Connecticut were among those announcing their support on Wednesday.
“Donald Trump lost me a long time ago,” Shays told MSNBC in an interview. “He does and says everything my mom and dad taught me never to say and do. He doesn’t understand the basic requirements of being president of the United States. And, frankly, he’s dangerous.”
He joins a number of high-profile Republicans moving away from Trump amid a string of controversial statements.
At a rally on Tuesday, Trump suggested gun rights activists could prevent Clinton from placing liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court. His campaign said the comment was misinterpreted even as it sparked backlash from Clinton’s campaign as well as some Republicans.
Trump previously came under fire from within his party for belatedly endorsing fellow Republicans in re-election races and a prolonged clash with the parents of fallen Muslim American Army captain Humayun Khan.
Earlier this week, 50 Republican national security officials had signed an open letter questioning the real estate mogul’s temperament, calling him reckless and unqualified.
Other top Republicans, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine this week, have disavowed Trump but said they cannot back Clinton, either.
Trump has dismissed the defections and criticism by Republicans as an unsurprising reaction of the so-called Washington elite to his drive to change the status quo.
Other Republicans have come to Trump’s defense after critics said he had made a veiled reference to assassinating Clinton. U.S. Representative Peter King on Wednesday criticized the remark but said Trump had the temperament to be president.
“I am not an enemy of Hillary Clinton, I consider her a friend. But I think Donald Trump … at this time and place would be a better commander in chief,” King told MSNBC.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also defended Trump, telling ABC News the candidate was not known for being indirect.
“If Donald Trump was going to say something like that, he’d say something like that,” he said.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)