NEW YORK — In the closing weeks of the presidential race, Hillary Clinton’s campaign says it is stepping up its efforts to court white working-class men, with whom support for Republican Donald Trump, as well as dislike of the Democratic nominee, runs deep.
Evidence of the renewed push can be found on Clinton’s calendar. She plans to make her second visit to Ohio on Monday in as many weeks, after shunning the state for much of September. Among the battleground states, it has been one of Trump’s strongest bastions of support, largely because of blue-collar workers who have gravitated toward his message of job creation and better trade deals.
After Sunday’s second debate, the Clinton camp also plans to intensify deployment of surrogates to pockets of the country where it sees opportunities to win back disaffected Democrats. Aides say that former president Bill Clinton will embark on more bus tours — probably including one in heavily white Iowa — like the one he just completed through areas of Ohio struggling because of the loss of manufacturing and mining jobs. Others also being dispatched to make the case in Rust Belt states and beyond include Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whose focus on economic inequality resonated with white, working-class men during the Democratic primaries to a greater degree than Clinton’s message.
Clinton has made similar overtures without moving the dial much. Immediately after the Democratic convention, she and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, embarked on a bus tour through rural Pennsylvania and Ohio. And in August, Clinton used a high-profile speech in Michigan to argue that Trump’s appeal to economically beleaguered Americans was a fraud.
But Clinton aides argue that they could find a more receptive audience now amid a fresh set of Trump controversies, including revelations that he might have gone many years without paying income taxes and that in recent construction projects he opted to buy his steel from Chinese manufacturers rather than U.S. companies based in Rust Belt states.
The emergence Friday of a video in which Trump speaks in particularly lewd terms about women could also factor in to the way voters see the race.
“We see an opportunity to make a renewed push with these working-class voters who’ve been open to Donald Trump,” said Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon. “There’s been a lot to call into question whether he really shares their values.”
The effort could have an additional effect for Clinton, which is to at least give the appearance that her appeal extends beyond the Democratic base.
Fallon stressed that the stepped-up outreach to white, working-class voters would not supplant the campaign’s focus on turning out its base of support, which includes African Americans, Latinos and college-educated whites, particularly women.
“While we feel like we can win with the coalition of support we’ve already built — assuming they turn out — we’ll also be going on the offense in these closing weeks,” he said.
The campaign plans to emphasize long-standing pocketbook initiatives that aides argue are more in line with the interests of working-class voters than anything Trump has put forward but which have not fully broken through the clutter of a mutually negative campaign. Among them: increasing the minimum wage, requiring employers to provide family leave and taking steps to make college more affordable. The pitch will be backed up by some of Clinton’s closing advertising in battleground states, aides said.
Bill Clinton’s travels through Ohio this week and other appearances around the country have offered one version of the message.
Speaking last month in Nevada — a state that has been relatively slow to recover from the recession — he sought to frame the election as a choice between a candidate who has served others her entire life and is offering solid policy proposals, and one who is appealing to a sense of “road rage” in the country.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll late last month showed Trump leading Clinton by 32 percentage points among likely voters without a college degree — 62 percent to 30 percent. The gap was even more pronounced among men in this group, which Trump led 76 percent to 17 percent.
Those numbers approach but do not quite mirror the advantage that Clinton enjoys among African Americans — a group that Trump has tried to court without much notable progress.
Many of the white, working-class voters are not only disinclined to vote for Clinton, but they also strongly dislike her. In a more recent Post-ABC poll that followed the first presidential debate, 73 percent of white Americans without a college degree said they have an unfavorable impression of Clinton. Sixty-one percent said their view of the former secretary of state is “strongly” unfavorable.
Scott Reed, a longtime Republican operative who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, said part of Clinton’s problem is a lack of a focused message to reach the demographic.
“I haven’t seen a Clinton message to blue-collar voters about economic growth,” said Reed, who is now chief strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “I think that is still a big challenge for her.”
He added that Trump has fallen short in this regard as well. But, Reed said: “Trump turned out a lot of Reagan Democrats during the primary, and he’s doing pretty well with them now.”
Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic strategist, said he thinks it is smart for Clinton to try to reach a demographic that includes many people who have voted Democratic in the past and may not be enchanted with Trump either.
Even modest gains among working-class voters cuts into the coalition Trump would need to win, Trippi said. If nothing else, a sustained effort by Clinton could force Trump to spend more time defending his base.
“It’s sort of a twofer strategy,” Trippi said. “She may be able to win some of them and also force him to spend resources and time guarding support he already has. In that sense, it doesn’t matter if it’s a head fake or not.”
Trippi, who is not working for the Clinton campaign, also argued that there are potential longer-term benefits to reaching out to a demographic group that views her so negatively.
“The country is so polarized right now,” he said. “If she wins, she’s going to have to govern. So it’s to her benefit to reach out to people now who are moving in the other direction.”
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.