In recent weeks, Clinton has begun a new phase in her campaign — tying together Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and casting them as just like all the Republicans.
PHILADELPHIA — After a set of decisive victories in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton assumed the mantle of her party’s presumptive nominee, making a sweeping pitch for unity to Democrats, independents, millions of Bernie Sanders supporters — and to what she called the “thoughtful Republican.”
Her speech here marked Clinton’s first direct appeal to voters outside the Democratic electorate — a benchmark in a 13-month campaign long occupied with a well-funded challenge from Bernie Sanders and his millions of supporters.
The results on Tuesday — yielding wins for Clinton in Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and delegate-heavy Pennsylvania — leave Sanders without a feasible path to the nomination. And as she spoke to a crowd of 1,300 at the convention center in Philadelphia, the city set to host the Democratic National Convention, Clinton all but acknowledged that reality, promising to return as the nominee, to heal her fractured party, and to rally those beyond its membership.
Addressing both parties and those without a political party, Clinton laid out her vision of “a prosperous, inclusive, decent society” — a future, as she put it, “where love trumps hate.”
“We will unify our party to win this election and build an America where we can all rise together,” Clinton said after taking the stage to the chorus of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” a departure from campaign’s strict song list, underscoring the occasion.
The figure at the center of this call was, of course, Donald Trump.
“In this election, we will have to stand together and work hard to prevail against candidates on the other side who would threaten all those rights and pit Americans against each other,” Clinton said. “So, my friends, if you are a Democrat, an independent, or a thoughtful Republican, you know their approach is not going to build an America where we increase opportunity or decrease inequality.”
After the speech, Clinton aides declined to elaborate on what an effort to win over independents and Republicans might entail at this stage in the election.
Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, said there’s “certainly not anyone in the general electorate” the campaign wouldn’t want to win over.
“We think there are reasons that Americans of all stripes should want to support our candidacy,” said Palmieri. She cited the “divisive language” and proposals on national security that have been put forward this year by GOP candidates.
“We want everyone to feel welcome,” Palmieri said.
The appeal to “thoughtful Republicans” reflects a softening of the rhetoric Clinton has used in recent weeks against Trump and Ted Cruz. At campaign events, Clinton often presents the top-two candidates as symptomatic of the wider party.
“It’s not just Donald Trump or Ted Cruz,” she told one group last week. “What they are saying is what most of the Republican elected officials believe.”
And in one of the major speeches of her campaign, delivered late last month on the topic of the Supreme Court, Clinton made the case that Trump and Cruz’s “extreme candidacies” came as a reflection and product of the GOP. “Donald Trump didn’t come out of nowhere,” she said. “What the Republicans have sown with their extremist tactics, they are now reaping with Donald Trump’s candidacy.”
Asked about Clinton’s past comments, Brian Fallon, another spokesman, said she had been referring in particular to the far-right faction of the Republican Party.
“Her point all along has been that for a while now the Republican Party has been overtaken by its most extreme fringe, and that Trump and Cruz are a natural outgrowth of that,” Fallon said. “But there remains a contingent within the Republican Party that has been abandoned by this rightward lurch.”
Trump has alienated many Republicans, especially among certain demographics like regular churchgoers and movement conservatives or libertarians, like David and Charles Koch. He has also frequently performed poorly this year with college-educated voters, especially women and those who live in affluent suburbs — a potential opportunity for Clinton in a general election matchup.
This is an appeal to unify the entire country, Fallon said. “We include Republicans in that absolutely.”
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