COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hillary Clinton plans a one-two punch this week to first paint Donald Trump as reckless and misguided in his approach to the economy and then present what her campaign is calling a thematic argument about why her ideas and programs are better.
Clinton will attempt to pick apart Trump’s economic policies in an address here Tuesday that is roughly patterned on the point-by-point attack she launched on Trump’s national security ideas earlier this month.
“Everything that she said about Donald Trump and our security is equally true when it comes to our economy,” said Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s chief policy adviser.
On Wednesday, the presumptive Democratic nominee plans to frame her own program in the context of the general election, with a speech in North Carolina. Both Ohio and North Carolina are considered battleground states for the fall election pitting Clinton and Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
The main themes of Clinton’s attack Tuesday will include Trump’s views on the national debt, tariffs and trade, his tax proposal, and opposition to raising the minimum wage. As with the national security argument, Clinton will try to use Trump’s own words against him.
“If we were to put Donald Trump behind the steering wheel of the American economy, he would be very likely to drive us off of a cliff,” Sullivan said in an interview. “And working families would bear the brunt of that impact in terms of lost jobs, lost savings, lost livelihoods.”
Like national security, the economy is an area where Clinton is seeking a comparison with Trump that makes her look serious, experienced and presidential. But the economy is also an area in which Clinton more squarely confronts the core of Trump’s appeal as an outsider businessman who has not held office.
Although Clinton leads Trump overall in recent national polls, surveys have also shown that likely voters are roughly divided over which candidate would better manage the economy. Trump has said that Clinton’s economic stewardship would be “a disaster” and that his background as a dealmaker would set the United States up for success.
As she reframes her economic arguments head-to-head with Trump, Clinton is also speaking indirectly to supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), whose very liberal economic ideas shook up the Democratic race and pulled her to the left during a long primary fight this year.
Clinton’s campaign was premised on an appeal to the middle class, or those who feel themselves slipping out of it, before Trump entered the race a year ago. But it was Sanders, with his focus on the disparity between the rich and the poor, who seemed to capture the mood and the imaginations of many Democrats. Sanders has not conceded defeat despite being unable to erase Clinton’s overwhelming lead among delegates before primary voting ended last week.
Unlike national security, which is ground generally friendly to Clinton as a former secretary of state, the economy is an area in which Trump has an established record of both policy pronouncements and actions. While Trump’s wealth and apparent success in business are a big part of his appeal, Clinton’s campaign and outside allies are seeking to use Trump’s business background against him, particularly with women and independent voters and particularly in swing states.
Clinton’s campaign has begun airing an attack ad against Trump in battleground states such as Ohio, and it is also airing two ads that trace Clinton’s biography as a lawyer and advocate for women and children. Outside super PACs plan to highlight the stories of people who say they were wronged by the mogul’s business practices.
“He has a record in the private sector of doing harm to working families and small businesses,” Sullivan said.
Trump began setting off alarms last month when he suggested that he would try to negotiate down the cost of the national debt with the country’s creditors.
The comments were widely interpreted as Trump seeking to use the possibility of debt default as leverage, which economists warned would represent an unprecedented threat to investor confidence and could affect interest rates.
Trump walked back those comments and said his views had been misrepresented. But at the same time, Trump also said the country can avoid defaulting on its debt by printing money, one of the positions that Clinton is likely to call dangerous or ill-informed.
Trump’s tax plan, issued in September, would cut taxes across the board and create four distinct tax brackets, from zero percent to 25 percent. Clinton and other Democrats say that in effect the Trump plan is a huge tax break for the wealthy.
Economists at the Tax Policy Center have analyzed Trump’s initial proposal and said the cuts would favor those in higher-income brackets.
The Clinton campaign previously cited research estimating that Trump’s tax plan would increase the deficit by roughly $10 trillion over 10 years. Some of the same research also predicted an expansion in jobs and an increase in after-tax incomes.