THE MORNING PLUM:

The Washington Post and the New York Times both weigh in today with big pieces that are packed with new revelations about Trump University, reporting that former attendees and employees at the business school Trump founded claim it engaged in unscrupulous and deceptive business practices and exploited vulnerable students to make a quick buck.

Democrats are already seizing on the reports. Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA, emails this statement:

“The predatory behavior demonstrated by Trump University against single parents who needed money to feed their children, young couples struggling to make ends meet, and other families down on their luck is beyond disgusting. Donald Trump is divisive, dangerous, and unquestionably a con-man who profited off the misery of others, and he should never be President of the United States. Priorities USA will continue to hold Donald Trump accountable for his record.”

What all this shows is that, contrary to widespread assertions otherwise, Dems are not targeting Donald Trump with the sort of attacks they threw at Mitt Romney. Rather, they see his vulnerabilities in subtly different terms.

The stories, which are based on unsealed documents from a lawsuit waged by students in California who charge it with fraudulence, are loaded up with vivid details. The Times recounts that one former sales manager alleges that the school “preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.” And there’s this:

Corrine Sommer, an event manager, recounted how colleagues encouraged students to open up as many credit cards as possible to pay for classes that many of them could not afford. “It’s O.K., just max out your credit card,” Ms. Sommer recalled their saying.

The Times also notes: “Marketing materials bearing his signature encouraged prospective students to take advantage of a downturn in the housing market to earn quick profits.”

And as the Post recounts, Trump had a very hands on role with the school: the newly disclosed papers suggest that Trump was “personally involved in devising the marketing strategy for Trump University, even vetting potential ads.” The Post adds that “internal company manuals…show that instructors were advised to aggressively steer prospective customers toward the most expensive courses.”

Trump’s lawyers flatly deny these characterizations, say there’s plenty of evidence of widespread student satisfaction with the school, and predict victory at trial.

But in the near term, this dovetails neatly with the story that Democrats are trying to tell about Trump. It has sometimes been observed that Dems are trying to hit Trump with the same tactics they used against Romney in 2012. But there’s a crucial difference here. Trump is being portrayed as personally cruel and rapacious, in ways that dovetail with his penchant for spewing vile, demeaning insults at, well, pretty much everyone in sight. The argument against Romney — who had a stodgy, patrician, air, not a brash, crude one — wasn’t that he personally scammed anyone or wished them ill will. It was that he was a walking symbol of all the ways in which unchecked venture capitalism had decimated jobs and hammered the working and middle classes.

Ultimately, the strategic imperatives are similar. Romney was seen as a skillful economic technocrat, and similarly, recent polls have shown that more voters think Trump, not Clinton, would be better at creating jobs. As in the case of Romney, Dems need to show that, whatever technocratic economic know-how is accorded to Trump, he actually isn’t on the side of ordinary Americans. In some ways, that’s a tougher case to make against Trump: He doesn’t have Romney’s aloof, plutocratic aura, and seems to have persuaded a lot of working class white voters that he has their backs, will crack the heads of illegal immigrants and China who are stealing our jobs, and will bust up the system and set it right for American workers again. But as Elizabeth Warren’s big speech against Trump telegraphed, as more details such as these emerge, Dems will try to use allegations about his cruel fraudulence to show that he doesn’t have American workers’ backs at all — in other words, to accomplish against him what Romney’s venture capitalist past accomplished in 2012.

As I’ve reported, in 2012 Dems honed their general strategy against Romney down to this: “When people like him do well, people like you get screwed.” In 2016, the argument against Trump is a bit different: He is personally cruel and rapacious: He, and his presidential candidacy, are directly screwing you.

******************************************************************

* HILLARY HOLDS SMALL NATIONAL LEAD, POLL FINDS: A new Quinnipiac poll finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 45-41 among registered voters nationwide. On the issues, voters say by…

52-41 percent that Trump would be better creating jobs; 51-43 percent that Clinton would be better handling immigration; 49-41 percent that Trump would be more effective handling ISIS; 53-40 percent that Clinton would better respond to an international crisis; 46 percent would trust Clinton more on sending U.S. troops overseas, while 44 percent would trust Trump more; 55-33 percent would trust Clinton more to make the right decisions regarding nuclear weapons; 48-45 percent that Clinton would do a better job getting things done in Washington.

This overall finding is actually in line with the polling averages, which show Clinton up 43-41. Let’s see what happens when Dems coalesce behind her.

* CLINTON TIES TRUMP AMONG WHITE WOMEN: Here’s a finding in the new Quinnipiac poll that’s worth keeping an eye on: Clinton and Trump are roughly tied among white women, 40-41.

This is supposed to be a GOP-leaning constituency that Trump is actively courting, and if this is accurate, it could complicate Trump’s hopes of surfing a wave of white backlash into the White House.

* CLINTON TO MAKE NATIONAL SECURITY CASE AGAINST TRUMP: Clinton recently said Trump is not “qualified” for the presidency, and Anne Gearan reports that she will broaden that case tomorrow:

She will deliver what her campaign calls a major foreign policy address in California on Thursday, focused on…what she will describe as the threat Trump poses to national security. “Clinton will rebuke the fear, bigotry and misplaced defeatism that Trump has been selling to the American people,” an aide said. “She will make the affirmative case for the exceptional role America has played and must continue to play in order to keep our country safe and our economy growing.”

One thing worth watching for in coming days is whether GOP-aligned national security types come out for her and against Trump.

Trump…remains deeply unpopular among minorities, women and younger voters — just the kind of voters Democrats need to win House seats in swing districts….Democratic consultants think that Trump’s rise has, broadly speaking, tilted the House battlefield in their favor by firming up candidates’ chances in battleground districts, allowing resources to be focused on more marginal seats. Trump, they say, has accelerated the party’s “demographic pivot” into more affluent, better educated, suburban districts.

As the article notes, for various reasons, the chances of taking back the House remain remote. But if Dems can merely cut down the size of the GOP majority, that could make it easier to wrest compromises from Republicans.

* CLINTON BLASTS TRUMP OVER VETERANS: Trump wrote checks to veterans organizations after reporters questioned his claims about donations to them. Clinton tells CNN’s Jake Tapper that’s a real problem:

“He’s bragged for months about raising $6 million for veterans and donating a million dollars himself. But it took a reporter to shame him into actually making his contribution and getting the money to veterans. Look, I’m glad he finally did, but I don’t know that he should get much credit for that.”

Look for this one to be pressed into service alongside Trump’s relishing of a housing crash to drive his negatives ever higher.

 * MORE GOP DISSEMBLING ABOUT OBAMA ECONOMY: To explain the rise of Trump, Mitch McConnell claimed that “the average person is about $3000 to $4,000 worse off today than when President Obama came to office.” Glenn Kessler takes apart McConnell’s argument, finding that it is based on stale data, and shows that more up-to-date data indicates that “median household income is now slightly higher than when Obama took office.”

Higher…lower…what’s the difference? Either way, McConnell and Trump know that they can continue arguing that the Obummer economy was an unremitting disaster, and Republicans will nod right along.