New York Times campaign reporters Amy Chozick and Ashley Parker played into Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s feminist theme in Friday’s lead story, “Trump’s Attacks On Clinton Have Calculated Risk – Gender-Based Criticism – Democrat, With Eye on November, Studies Ways to Parry.”
The original lead was even more slanted in favor of the Democrat, with Clinton called “a trailblazing woman” which was changed in the final to “the first woman to lead a major party.”
With the nation on the verge of a presidential election between the first woman to lead a major party and an opponent accused of misogyny, Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump’ are digging in for a fight in which he is likely to attack her precisely because she is a woman.
Mr. Trump, the Republican favorite, has already proved willing to attack Mrs. Clinton in ways that many women find sexist and that her supporters consider out of bounds.
This week alone, he accused her of playing the “woman’s card” to get where she is, saying, “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.” He questioned her “strength” and “stamina,” and he mocked her for “shouting.” Also this year, he attacked Mrs. Clinton as the enabling political spouse of a former president who Mr. Trump said had abused women.
The Times was too squeamish to air out that accusation of abuse, but Trump probably has women like Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick on his mind, all who have accused President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and worse, and all smeared by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton to protect her husband’s political viability.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers say they are confident that such comments will galvanize Democrats -- and infuriate nearly any woman who has ever had to work harder than a man. But they also recognize that Mr. Trump has proved adept at reading the electorate and at dominating news coverage -- and that Mrs. Clinton must parry his attacks without overplaying her hand or further eroding her standing with male voters, whom she has struggled to win over in the Democratic primary.
Democrats say the strategy is an exercise in delusion, given Mr. Trump’s weakness among women: They are solidly in Mrs. Clinton’s corner against Mr. Trump so far in the polls. Fifty percent of white women said they would support her, to 39 percent for him, according to a CBS News poll in April.
Some Republicans, similarly, cringed. “When people rally around her are when people bring things up about her husband’s infidelities and when it appears as though she’s being attacked by the boys’ club,” said Katie Packer, who runs an anti-Trump group and co-founded a consulting firm that helps Republicans communicate to women.
The Times laid out Hillary’s anti-Trump game plan in a potential future face-off.
On the debate stage, Mrs. Clinton will not respond in kind to personal attacks: No jokes about Mr. Trump’s hair or the size of his hands. When Mr. Trump’s comments dominate the news, her campaign plans to stick to its message, even if it means being momentarily eclipsed. And when Mr. Trump accuses Mrs. Clinton of playing the woman’s card, Mrs. Clinton will pivot to issues like equal pay for women, paid family and medical leave and raising the minimum wage.
Still, pushing back against Mr. Trump is unlikely to go unanswered. In January, after Mrs. Clinton accused him of being sexist, he warned that Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions would be fair game, accused Mrs. Clinton of impugning the reputations of women who accused her husband of sexual indiscretions, then boasted that Mrs. Clinton had been intimidated into dropping the subject.
Again, the paper didn’t bother with follow-up questions on whether the Clinton campaign actually challenges the truth of such accusations of “indiscretions” (an awfully soft word for the rape allegations made by Juanita Broaddrick against Bill Clinton). Chozick and Parker ended on a note of anti-Trump triumph.
On a private flight after Mrs. Clinton’s victory speech, her aides could hardly believe their luck when they learned that Mr. Trump, speaking about an hour later, had used the term woman’s card in his own victory speech.
A video that spliced Mr. Trump’s comments with Mrs. Clinton’s line was quickly sent out to her supporters without any further commentary.
Allies of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump viewed the exchange on Tuesday night as an opening round in what will probably unfold in the months ahead. “I’m surprised they aren’t selling decks of cards yet,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist who is supporting Mrs. Clinton. “They should just go nuts with it.”
That may yet come. On Thursday, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign appealed for donations by offering supporters their “very own official Hillary for America woman card” -- a hot pink credit card with the words “Congratulations: You’re in the majority!”