The road that Hillary Clinton hopes to take to the White House travels right through suburban Virginia and places like it: diverse, moderate and burgeoning with young families.
Clinton’s campaign stop Monday afternoon at Mug ’n Muffin coffeehouse in Loudoun County offered a window into her strategy to win those voters.
She largely ignored presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and focused instead on bread-and-butter issues for suburban families: child-care costs, paid family leave, college tuition. But the strategy is a tacit, detail-laden critique of Clinton’s likely opponent, for whom policy has been a secondary feature.
Trump spent the weekend ratcheting up attacks on Clinton over the scandals of the 1990s during her husband’s administration. He accused her of being an “enabler” of Bill Clinton’s infidelity.
Asked about those accusations on Monday, Hillary Clinton declined to respond.
“I’m going to let him run his campaign however he chooses,” she told reporters. “I’m going to run my campaign, which is a positive vision for our country with specific plans.”
“I have nothing to say about him,” she added.
Mothers, fathers and their restless children sat around her as Clinton emphasized her support for family-focused policies — an apparent effort to remind voters of her long history with such issues.
“ ‘Blue Train, Green Train,’ ” Clinton remarked as she greeted families, zeroing in on a colorful book held by a young boy. “I know about that.”
Advocating for paid family leave, she said she supported new mothers having at least three months of leave to bond with their children.
“I’d like to see more, if that’s possible — to bond with your baby, to get to know how to be a mom,” Clinton said. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know when I had Chelsea years ago.”
Hours later, she snapped selfies with parents and preschoolers at a KinderCare facility nearby.
Loudoun County was her first general-election-focused campaign stop since Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee — Virginia has already held its primary — and it highlighted the suburb’s key role in this election.
Loudoun narrowly went for President Obama in 2012, but the county is at the western edge of densely populated, liberal Northern Virginia, so its voters still sometimes lean conservative. Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, which includes all of Loudoun and is represented by Republican Barbara Comstock, is a target for Democrats seeking to flip the seat blue.
It is in communities like this that Clinton is hoping to turn out African American, Asian and Latino voters, in addition to younger or middle-aged white women.
“People like me, I’m definitely going to support her,” said Cliff Gyamfi, who is African American. “But it’s going to be those swing voters, independents.”
The father of two sons, Gyamfi reflects the rapidly changing demographics of this part of the state. He and his wife, who is white, worry about Trump’s rhetoric and what it means for their children.
“She’s got major concerns,” Gyamfi said of his wife. “She has black sons, so she’s concerned about racial profiling and what happens there.”
The neighborhood Clinton visited Monday, Stone Ridge, is about half minority, according to the most recent census. Young, professional and middle-class families constitute a significant subset of this group. They serve as a potentially rich voting bloc for Clinton, who is seeking to not only turn out the Democratic base but also sway swing independent and Republican voters her way.
Democrats also hope that Trump will repel traditionally Republican-leaning voters — including evangelicals — prompting many of them to stay home in November.
Schatem Boyd, 34, who has a 2-year-old daughter, said she is at a crossroads in this election.
“I’ve always known who I was going to vote for,” said Boyd, a Republican small-business owner. But this year, she found herself sitting five feet away from Clinton.
“If it’s going to be the election that it’s shaping up to be between Trump and Hillary, I don’t feel comfortable voting for the Republican candidate as it stands,” Boyd said.
But she has concerns about the Affordable Care Act, telling Clinton that her family’s monthly health insurance premiums have increased by hundreds of dollars in the past few years.
“What you’re saying is one of the real worries that we’re facing with the cost of health insurance,” Clinton told Boyd. “The costs are going up in a lot of markets.”
Clinton suggested that government subsidies that help individuals and families pay for insurance premiums shouldn’t just be cut off at certain income levels. Instead, she suggested, they should gradually diminish as incomes rise. Clinton also floated the possibility of allowing people to buy into the Medicare program as one way of establishing a “public option” and reducing the cost of health care
Her answers highlighted a key difference between the leading Republican and Democratic candidates. If Trump looks to make the election flashy entertainment, Clinton aims to make it more of a policy conference. Her talk centered on “tax incentives,” “programs” and “robust structures” to help resolve some issues facing families.
Asked whether she would seek to respond to Trump’s personal attacks, Clinton countered by saying that his statements on issues such as nuclear policy and terrorism make him a “loose cannon.”
“I’m answering him on what I think voters care about,” she said. “I’m answering him on the differences between our records, our experience, what we want to do for our country, how important it is to try to unify the country, and I have been very clear that a lot of his rhetoric is not only reckless, it’s dangerous.”