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Hillary Clinton Drawn Into 2018 Campaign With Comments About Trump Voters

Hillary Clinton has made her entrance into the 2018 campaign, but not by choice.

The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee's name is nowhere on the ballot this year, but that's not stopping some Republicans from using her words, her image and her gaffes to energize the GOP base.

At a conference in Mumbai, India, earlier this month, Clinton spoke candidly about her loss to Trump and made some controversial comments about his supporters, saying they were motivated by racial and gender intolerance.

Clinton summed up Trump's argument, as she saw it. "You know, you didn't like black people getting rights. You don't like women getting jobs. You don't want to see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are," Clinton said. "Whatever your problem is, I'm gonna solve it."

Clinton apologized for her remarks in a lengthy Facebook post on Saturday, in which she said, "I understand how some of what I said upset people and can be misinterpreted. I meant no disrespect to any individual or group."

But that's not stopping Republicans from running with her remarks. Clinton's comments were quickly seized upon by Republicans, eager to have one of their favorite foils back in the spotlight ahead of the midterms.

And now a new ad from Missouri's attorney general Josh Hawley, the leading Republican in the race to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for reelection, uses Clinton's "backwards" comments to suggest she other Democrats like McCaskill look down on Missourians. The state voted for Trump over Clinton in 2016 by about 19 percent.

The ad begins with footage of Clinton in India describing her 2016 loss. "If you look at a map of the United States, there's all that red in the middle where Trump won," she begins. The ad then shows McCaskill's early and enthusiastic support for Clinton.

It continues with Clinton in India saying, "I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic moving forward. And his whole campaign was looking backwards. You know, you didn't like black people getting rights, you don't like women getting jobs, you don't want to see that Indian-American succeeding more than you are, whatever your problem is ... He stirred that up"

The ad ends by declaring that "this is what Claire McCaskill and 'her president' think of you."

Clinton is a potentially valuable asset for the GOP in a year when Democratic enthusiasm appears to be surpassing Republicans, in addition to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. And Republicans are eager to suggest Clinton's comments are evidence of how Democrats are out-of-touch with middle America.

Many Democrats were quick to distance themselves from their party's 2016 nominee and her recent comments.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said Clinton's comments about Trump voters were incorrect.

"My friend Hillary Clinton is wrong. Thirty percent of the people that voted for Donald Trump had voted for President Obama," Durbin told Fox News Sunday.

Clinton's comments were reminiscent of one of her biggest missteps during the 2016 election when she described half of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables" at a fundraiser. Clinton said they were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it." She later apologized for that criticism.

But not before the Trump campaign had appropriated it. The campaign relished the "deplorable" label and used it as a badge of honor to remind voters of what Clinton thought about them.

Clinton has largely stayed out of the limelight, and is reportedly planning a discreet midterm campaign strategy.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.