In the final mad dash before the Super Tuesday primaries, Hillary Clinton’s campaign trained its fire on Donald Trump – a clear sign that the Democratic front-runner is confident enough of victory to look beyond the nominating contest and toward the general election in November.
At a Monday morning rally, she pitched herself as a leader to unite the country at a time of unprecedented division.
“What we need to do now is make America whole,” she said at a museum in Springfield, a once-proud industrial city in western Massachusetts. Americans must reject “mean-spiritedness [and] hateful rhetoric.”
And former president Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife in vote-rich Texas, slagged Mr. Trump’s signature promise to build a wall along the state’s border with Mexico.
“Some people want to build walls. She wants to tear down barriers and build ladders of opportunity,” he said of Ms. Clinton, to roars of approval at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in inner-city Houston. “When the Republicans say ‘Make America great again,’ she says ‘I don’t think we ever stopped being great!”
Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump are banking on Tuesday – when 11 Democratic and 13 Republican primaries will allocate about a quarter of the delegates needed to win – to give them strangleholds on their respective parties’ nominations.
With campaigning forbidden on voting day, all the candidates went hard Monday. Mr. Trump jetted to Virginia and Georgia. Texas Senator Ted Cruz returned to campaign in his home state in a final bid to pull out a large enough win to make up for his likely losses to Mr. Trump elsewhere.
And Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, in the fight of his political life to arrest Ms. Clinton’s runaway momentum, made a final push to secure victory in Massachusetts, a liberal state with a hefty delegate haul.
“I like his integrity, I like his honesty, I like everything he says,” Nayir Javid said, standing outside a Sanders rally in a suburb of Boston with her son Monday afternoon. “We’ll see tomorrow if enough people believe what he is saying.”
Ms. Clinton’s supporters mostly expressed admiration for Mr. Sanders’s socialist values and campaign for income equality, but contended he was not pragmatic enough to achieve his agenda.
“I just think Hillary can get it done,” said Jackie Brousseau-Pereira, 47, who took her two daughters, Nina, 11, and Rita, 8, out of school to hear Ms. Clinton speak in Springfield. For Rita, the calculus was simpler: “She could be the first woman president,” she said with enthusiasm.
Elizabeth Overstreet-Hampton, a 41-year-old health-care worker who travelled from Dallas for Mr. Clinton’s event, said Mr. Sanders’s rhetoric “lets your heart just glow,” but that Ms. Clinton “gives you the reality of how something can be accomplished.”
“A lot of people can tell you, ‘I can make ice cream out of dirt.’ But, okay, how does that happen?” she said.
But more than Mr. Sanders, the spectre of Mr. Trump hung over the room. Texas state Senator Rodney Ellis mocked Mr. Trump’s receiving the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (“They still fighting the Civil War. They don’t know it’s over with!”) and many voters were as eager to discuss Mr. Trump’s candidacy as the race with Mr. Sanders.
Sergeant-Major James Williams, 81, the last living original Buffalo soldier, referred to Mr. Trump as “that fool” and “stupid” for goading Russia. He was also exasperated by the Republican front-runner’s xenophobia.
“Hillary is really for this country – she don’t care what nationality you are. She’s not talking about putting people out of this country like Donald Trump is,” he said.
Henry Kernan, a 29-year-old geologist, described himself as a centrist voter and said the “insane” Republican race has pushed him toward the Democrats.
“The mudslinging, the crazy assertions, what they’re standing for. Each time, they’re fighting to go further right, further right, further right,” he said at the Clinton rally. “It was their election to lose and they’ve definitely lost it.”
At Mr. Trump’s Houston field office, in an industrial park in a working-class neighbourhood of 1960s bungalows and taco trucks, a restaurant owner dropping off catering for campaign workers said the candidate’s polarizing nature was drawing flak for his backers.
“I’ve already had people dump trash in my parking lot because I was hauling food over here. I had one employee that was a meat cutter, and he said, ‘I’m not cutting food for the Trump organization,’” said Larry, 67, who owns a barbecue restaurant and declined to give his last name. “I’m taking a lot of heat backing Donald Trump.”Report Typo/Error
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