Clinton Plots a 'Do No Harm' Campaign Amid Trump Whirlwind - NBC New York
Decision 2016

Decision 2016

Full coverage of the race for the White House

Clinton Plots a 'Do No Harm' Campaign Amid Trump Whirlwind

"Make no errors, do no harm," said Republican strategist Rick Tyler



    How do you run for president during a political cyclone with no precedents and no predictable path? 

    Hillary Clinton has her answer: Slow and steady.

    As Donald Trump jags across the country, battling an onslaught of sexual misconduct allegations, his party's opposition and the media, Clinton has stepped cautiously on the campaign trail.

    She rarely makes news or veers from her script. She keeps a plodding schedule of modest-size events. She relies heavily on her cast of loyal — and arguably more effective — surrogates. And she doesn't overdo it: With just less than a month left to campaign, Clinton was fundraising in California on Thursday and expected to spend most of the weekend out of the public eye.

    "Make no errors, do no harm," said Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who worked for Trump's primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz. "(Trump) has no ability to make good news about himself. Like none. So why not just let him go?"

    The news about Trump has overshadowed potentially damaging reports about Clinton based on thousands of hacked emails that apparently came from the email account of her campaign chairman, John Podesta. The campaign has not confirmed the authenticity of the emails.

    Clinton aides said the former secretary of state has been balancing a full schedule — she attended rallies in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Colorado and Nevada this week — with preparations for the final debate, scheduled for Wednesday, as well as fundraising for an ambitious get-out-the-vote program and advertising in battleground states. She was also off the trail for several days in September after a bout of pneumonia forced an awkward exit from a 9/11 memorial event.

    Spokesman Brian Fallon said that that Clinton "continues to take time to raise resources to execute our strategy and prepare for the debates," and said the campaign was "confident we're not leaving any voters untouched in critical states."

    There's little sign that the relatively low-key strategy is hurting Clinton, who has seized a comfortable lead in several national polls. Early voting shows positive signs for her in two states that could help her lock up the presidency, North Carolina and Florida, according to preliminary data compiled by The Associated Press.

    Still, the approach strikes a sharp contrast to her predecessor on the Democratic ticket.

    Never a natural on the stump, Clinton has had few of the massive rallies that defined President Barack Obama's two campaigns. Her largest event to date, an evening rally on the campus at Ohio State University, drew some 18,500 people on Tuesday. But events a quarter of that size are more common. Around this time eight years ago, Obama drew 100,000 people to a rally in Missouri.

    Clinton isn't aiming for that kind of spotlight. Her campaign notes she's focused on policy speeches and voter registration events. She's also looked for ways to talk to her voters without riling those she will never win over. She consistently talks to local press as she travels around the country and has worked through niche media, granting an interview to a student journalist for Elle Magazine and speaking with Mary J. Blige for her new show.

    Clinton is also relying on a team of what her campaign calls "uber-surrogates" to cover the territory she is not.

    In recent days, first lady Michelle Obama has fired up heavily female audiences in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, while President Barack Obama hit Greensboro and campaigned Friday in Ohio. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned this week across Florida and then hopped on a bus tour through Iowa on his wife's behalf.

    Mrs. Obama's scathing remarks about Trump's treatment of women rocketed around social media and instantly won the sort of buzz Clinton herself rarely seeks.

    "Too many are treating this as just another day's headline. As if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted, as if this is normal, just politics as usual," Mrs. Obama said Thursday in Manchester, New Hampshire. "This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful."

    President Obama said Friday he “couldn’t be prouder” of his wife over her comments. 

    “This is why I married her -- to improve my gene pool,” Obama said at rally in Cleveland, adding that it was so his daughters "would be smarter than me.” 

    He said that Michelle was sticking up for women, thinking about the lessons we are teaching the next generation but also talking on behalf of men that “we’re better than this.” 

    Obama said Trump, meanwhile, was “making excuses all the time for why he might be losing.” 

    "It's always interesting to me to see folks talk tough but then don't act tough -- because if you're tough you don't make excuses,” Obama said. 

    He said you don’t start to complain about “the refs” before the game is done. He said Clinton was “playing the game.” 

    Obama also said that Trump is no populist, arguing that Trump has tried over the course of his a career to convince everyone “that he is a global elite.” 

    “All he had time for is celebrities,” Obama said, “and now suddenly he’s acting like a populist out there. Come on, man.” 

    In a cutting jab at Trump's business acumen, the president invoked the gambling adage that "the house always wins." 

    "Unless he owns the house," Obama said of Trump, his voice dripping with contempt. "Then it loses a billion dollars." 

    Trump, who formerly had a casino empire in Atlantic City, reported losing more than $900 million in 1995 in tax returns that were recently leaked. He's since acknowledged using those losses and accounting measures to avoid paying federal incomes taxes for years. 

    Obama's final-stretch push for Clinton has coincided with growing concerns among both parties that the intense toxicity of this year's campaign could pose long-term problems for American democracy, as citizens lose faith in the well-being of their political system. In his most direct terms yet, Obama echoed those concerns. 

    "Democracy itself is on the ballot right now," he said.

    Clinton herself has at times seemed determined not to make news. On Wednesday, though the campaign signaled she would launch a harder attack on Republicans aligned with Trump, a move that would win headlines, she demurred. On Thursday, as Trump issued denials and threatened lawsuits over the new round of news stories alleging mistreatment of women, Clinton made no direct comment on the allegations.

    She did, however, recommend that her supporters watch the first lady's blistering takedown.