U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton slammed rival Donald Trump on Monday for saying that the week-old effort to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the control of Islamic State was going badly.
“He’s basically declaring defeat before the battle has even started,” Clinton said at a campaign event in New Hampshire. “He’s proving to the world what it means to have an unqualified commander in chief.”
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump, the Republican nominee for the Nov. 8 election, said the “attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. We gave them months of notice. U.S. is looking so dumb.”
Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by the United States, have mounted a huge assault on the area surrounding the city, the last stronghold of Islamic State forces in Iraq. They have retaken about 80 Islamic State-held villages and towns since the offensive was launched on Oct. 16, but have yet to move on the city itself.
Trump reiterated his position during a rally on Monday in St. Augustine, Florida, where he also urged supporters to vote early and declared his campaign ahead of Clinton's.
"So now we’re bogged down in Mosul. The enemy is much tougher than they thought. They’ve had a lot of time to get ready," Trump said. "It’s a horrible, horrible situation that’s going on. Why did we have to tell them we’re going in?"
The operation could last weeks, or even months. Islamic State on Monday mounted counterattacks across the country against the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, trying to deflect attention away from the Mosul campaign.
Trump suggested last week during the final 2016 presidential debate that the U.S.-backed attack on Mosul was orchestrated to help Clinton in her White House bid.
With just over two weeks to go until the U.S. election, Clinton, President Barack Obama's first-term secretary of state, is ahead of the New York businessman in national opinion polls. Both candidates have been focusing on a small set of political swing states that could decide the contest.
Seeking to cement a wide advantage she holds with women voters, Clinton enlisted the help of firebrand U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who blasted Trump over allegations that he tried to grope or kiss several women without their consent over a 20-year span.
“He thinks because he has a mouthful of Tic Tacs that he can force himself on any women within groping distance,” Warren told a raucous crowd of 4,000 at St. Anselm College in Manchester. “Well, I’ve got news for you, Donald Trump. Women have had it with guys like you.”
At least 10 women have said Trump made unwanted sexual advances, including groping or kissing, in incidents from the early 1980s to 2007, according to reports in various news outlets. Trump has denied the women's allegations, calling them "totally and absolutely false" and promising on Saturday that he would sue his accusers.
Warren's mention of Tic Tac mint candies referred to a moment in a 2005 video that surfaced earlier this month in which Trump was heard boasting about groping and kissing women.
Warren also referenced Trump calling Clinton “a nasty woman” at last week’s debate, a phrase that quickly caught fire on social media, sparking hashtags and T-shirts.
“Get this, Donald, nasty women are tough,” Warren said. “Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote. And on Nov. 8 we nasty women are gonna march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.”
Clinton praised Warren for taking the fight to Trump. “She gets under his (Trump’s) thin skin like nobody else,” the candidate said.
At an event for farmers in Boynton Beach, Florida, earlier in the day, Trump disputed multiple national and state polls that show him lagging Clinton and accused the media of distorting poll results to discourage his supporters from voting.
“I believe we’re actually winning,” Trump said.
Just the day before, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, acknowledged that the candidate was trailing in the race, saying in a TV interview, “We are behind.”
According to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project, which surveys the vote in battleground states, Clinton leads Trump in most of the states that Trump would need to win to have a chance of amassing the minimum 270 Electoral College votes needed to capture the White House.
According to the survey, she had a better than 95 percent chance of winning, had the election been held last week. The mostly likely outcome would be 326 votes for Clinton to 212 for Trump. The Electoral College votes represent a tally of wins from the states.
(Reporting by Luciana Lopez in New Hampshire and Steve Holland in Florida; Writing by James Oliphant and Jeff Mason; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)