By Amie Parnes - 01/09/16 11:58 AM EST
Hillary Clinton is doubling down on slamming Republicans on their anti-Muslim rhetoric at campaign events in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
The attacks are mostly aimed at Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner who has said he would impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, but also target Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who said Friday that the terror arrests made in his state underscore the need to block Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.
Clinton’s rhetoric in recent days has become more and more pointed, with the Democratic frontrunner claiming Republicans are “foolish” and “shortsighted” in their approach.
“You know one of the reasons I've reacted so negatively to what I hear coming from the other side is not only what they are saying about Muslims is wrong and shameful, it's dangerous,” she said at a campaign stop in Iowa this week. “Basically, they're saying, ‘We don't want your help stopping these terrorists, we want to treat you like you don't belong here.’”
Former President Bill Clinton is also raising the issue as he hits the stump, citing examples of hard-working Muslims who make the nation better to highlight calls for a more inclusive nation.
Clinton campaign aides believe hitting Republicans for their rhetoric will resonate with Democratic voters and a general election audience.
They say that Clinton intends to argue in the general that the GOP’s stance is making the country less safe and hurting key U.S. relationships in the war on terror.
At the same time, Clinton’s campaign believes it sends the message that the Democratic party welcomes all people.
Clinton is seeking to put together the coalition of voters that helped President Obama win both of his presidential elections. The calls for inclusivity, her campaign believes, will help it with minority and young voters.
Trump, who has a major lead in the latest Republican primary polls, has made no apologies for his position and has promised that he’ll keep speaking out about it, signaling his belief that the calls are resonating with voters.
“Look there’s a problem. I bring it up. Other people have called me and say, ‘You have guts to bring it up because frankly, it’s true but nobody wants to get involved,” he told CBS’s John Dickerson. “Now people are getting involved. People that are on different persuasions than me right now, John, are saying, ‘you know, maybe Trump isn’t wrong. We want to examine it.”
Clinton predicted Trump’s rhetoric would be used in terrorist videos, and last week a video released by the group Al-Shabaab featured Trump’s call for a temporary stop on Muslims entering the United States.
But national security has become a more important issue to voters in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks, and it’s possible Trump’s approach could benefit him in the general election.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in late November found that 83 percent of registered voters say they believe a large-scale terrorist attack was imminent in the U.S.
“Middle America is terrified of terrorism and would err on the side of strength rather than 'Are we going to offend people?’ said Tobe Berkovitz, a professor of communications at Boston University who specializes in political communication. “People are increasingly more worried of stopping that person than offending that person.”
Julian Zelizer, a professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University, agreed, saying it’s an argument that Clinton “hopes will be more appealing” after some sense of the recent terror crises diminish.
But Zelizer concluded that it is a “difficult argument to make compared to the more polemical claims of many Republicans.”
One former aide to Clinton from her State Department days emphasized Clinton is personally invested in the issue because of her experiences. She believes her record at State undid “damage that the Bush administration did in terms of the perception of the United States in Muslim majority countries around the world,” the aide said.
Lately, Republicans are “bringing back those dark days where the average 14-year-old in the Gulf or Maghreb assumes we hate him or her.”
Team Clinton also thinks they will prevail in the argument in the end because of recent polls that show that the public trusts the Democratic frontrunner on national security issues more than any other Republican.
In the Iowa speech earlier this week, Clinton continued to make her point: “We need to have the kind of cooperation that will enable us to prevent attacks that’s why we all need to be united not divided to deal with the terrorist threat,” she said.