Web Video: Why Clinton is saving her attacks for Republicans, not Sanders

Aug. 11, 2015 AT 11:32 a.m. EDT

Hillary Clinton seized on remarks by Donald Trump and other Republicans to criticize their stances on women’s issues while campaigning in New Hampshire. Gwen Ifill talks to Susan Page of USA Today and Tamara Keith of NPR to discuss Trump’s continued dominance and how others are responding, plus why massive crowds are gathering to hear Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

GWEN IFILL: Donald Trump continues to consume the post-debate debate, Hillary Clinton lashes out at the Republicans, and Bernie Sanders draws huge West Coast crowds.

You may have heard Trump sparked an uproar when he described FOX News moderator Megyn Kelly as having “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” She was — he said, “In my opinion, she was off-base.”

The next day, he said he meant blood coming out of her nose.

Today, Hillary Clinton, campaigning in New Hampshire, said Trump was outrageous, but that Republicans who oppose all abortions are just as bad.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: While what Donald Trump said about Megyn Kelly is outrageous, what the rest of the Republicans are saying about all women is also outrageous. They brag about slashing women’s health care funding. They say they would force women who have been raped to carry their rapist’s child.

GWEN IFILL: Sounds like a perfect time for a Politics Monday.

We’re joined from New Hampshire tonight by Tamara Keith of NPR, and here in the studio by Susan Page of USA Today.

Tamara, you were in New Hampshire with Hillary covering Hillary Clinton today. Tell us a little bit about this whole idea, this broad idea of women’s issues. So far, we’re talking about the slur was that Donald Trump did or didn’t intend. We’re talking about abortion, but women’s issues, it seems to me, especially when it comes to an unknown candidate like Donald Trump, is much broader than that.


And Donald Trump, over the weekend, said that he’s huge on women’s issues. It’s not entirely clear what that means. Trump, before he was pro-life, was pro-choice. And, of course, that’s one of many issues where there are lots of substantive questions that could be asked of a candidate, but, typically, he spends a lot of time feuding instead.

GWEN IFILL: Has the Clinton campaign decided this is an opportunity for them?

TAMARA KEITH: Oh, absolutely. Hillary Clinton was having a lot of fun in that media availability today, though — and you also got the sense that she would have been perfectly happy if someone, anyone, had asked her a detailed policy question about her college affordability plan, which is what she was there for.

But, clearly, Clinton is using this to go after the Republican field as a whole, to tie them to Donald Trump, and also, in particular, today, she was talking about Marco Rubio. That’s the Florida senator who many say performed quite well in that debate last week, and she was talking about his position on abortion to not include incest or rape, and making the argument that that was the more extreme position than any of the entertaining things that Donald Trump said. And she described him as an entertainer.

GWEN IFILL: OK, Susan, let’s talk about Donald Trump. It’s — we have to. He’s still leading the polls. He doesn’t appeared to have been hurt at all by whatever happened in that debate or people’s interpretations of it.

But when we talk about Donald Trump and we talk about where he stands on issues, we know about the things he says. What does he believe, especially when it comes to these issues?

SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: Not a conventional candidate, and not someone who has ever served in public office, so there’s no voting record that we can go look at, as we can with people who served as governors and senators.

And, in fact, if you go on DonaldJTrump.com, his Web site, as I did just before we came on board, there are ways to buy T-shirts with Trump’s name, there are a lot of news stories posted about how well he’s doing in the polls, you can contribute to his campaign, but there is not even a tab that takes you to his policy positions on issues.

There’s nothing on his Web site up to this point that explains where he stands on issues like education, or health care, or jobs or terrorism. These are all issues that of course women care about, as do men.

GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s the thing. We’re talking about — when we say women’s issues, we’re also talking about health care and education and college affordability.

But we have heard nothing from him on any of that.

SUSAN PAGE: And you know what? I think, for his core supporters, it doesn’t matter. They’re endorsing kind of an attitude that has served him well so far.

But if he wants to grow his support, if he wants to become somebody who is actually taken seriously as a potential nominee, he’s going to have to take positions on some of these big issues.

GWEN IFILL: Tamara, we saw how Hillary Clinton has been responding to this. How about the others, especially all the Republican candidates? How have they been responding? They have obviously been trying to fight to get themselves heard in all of this.

TAMARA KEITH: Yes, any number of candidates have said things like, well, don’t you just want to ask me about what I want to do, John Kasich being one of them. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came out with another strongly-worded statement saying, come on, let’s just ditch this guy, basically, more or less.

And I think what’s going on here, what’s interesting though is that Donald Trump keeps going from feud to feud to feud. He said mean things about Megyn Kelly. Then he moved on and said mean things about Carly Fiorina, one of the other presidential candidates, and he keeps doing that, keeps sparking these feuds. It’s kind of like rap feuds of the ’90s, where they’re feuding and actually the feud gives everybody more publicity. So some candidates are embracing the fight with Trump.

GWEN IFILL: It’s true. I have been following this feud between Meek Mill and Drake over the last week. I have no idea what it’s about, but I know it’s a beef.

OK. So, we have the same thing happening here. But here’s what I’m curious about, Susan. There’s power in this, isn’t there? He was mad at FOX News, but now it appears he’s going to appear on FOX News because he made up with Roger Ailes.

SUSAN PAGE: So, here’s the amazing thing. Not only does he lead in the polls, but Donald Trump is defining the entire conversation.

So the other nominees, the other candidates either try to get into the story, like Rand Paul criticizing him as not really a real conservative or Bobby Jindal saying that he’s going to just say Trump’s name randomly through his speeches in an effort to get attention, or they’re trying to figure out how to talk about something else.

That’s what you see with Marco Rubio and John Kasich, where they are really desperate to try to break through on the issues that they want to talk about and avoid having to respond every day in every way to outrageous comments by Donald Trump. And I don’t think that they have quite figured out how to do that at the moment, because Donald Trump is still, as he likes to be, right at center stage.

GWEN IFILL: OK, Tamara, let’s talk about Bernie Sanders. He was on a West Coast swing this week and he attracted tens of thousands of people to his rallies in Seattle, in Portland, Oregon. And he’s on his way to Los Angeles today.

Is this something — first of all, what is the appeal for Bernie Sanders? Why is he getting these massive crowds at this time, in August, for heaven’s sakes? And what are the Hillary Clinton people thinking about this?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, and, also, he was endorsed today by the nurses union. That’s what he was doing in L.A., was picking up this big national endorsement.

So Bernie Sanders has captured something. He’s really captured a desire among many people to fix income inequality. He’s talking about college affordability. He has been talking about that for months. He really, in stark terms, spells out the feeling that a lot of people have that it’s just harder to get ahead, and that’s what he’s capturing, and people are showing up to see him.

Now, I can’t tell you what portion of the people in those arenas are just there to say, hey, who is this guy and how many of them would go out and, say, caucus for him in Iowa or volunteer for his campaign. It’s not clear to me what the share is in those people that are showing up.

GWEN IFILL: That’s the same question that could be asked about Donald Trump at this stage.

But what I’m curious about, Susan, also is whether the Hillary Clinton people are worried about it. She was asked about it today and she just said, oh, he’s a nice colleague. She didn’t have anything negative to say about him.

SUSAN PAGE: There is no percentage for Hillary Clinton to attack Bernie Sanders.

There’s every — because everything she wants to do is to get Bernie Sanders supporters to support her either now or later. She’s really focused her fire on the people she thinks will be her potential opponents, Jeb Bush and today Marco Rubio.

But, certainly, Bernie Sanders is underscoring some of the vulnerabilities that Hillary Clinton has. I don’t think the Hillary Clinton thinks he’s going to take the nomination, but when he gets 28,000 people to come to a rally in Portland, Oregon, it underscored — could she get 20,000 people to come there with no organization, with no money for ads, with no infrastructure?

So I think he’s concerning in that way, not so much that he takes the nomination, but he shows the kind of energy that she has yet to show.

GWEN IFILL: You begin to wonder if, at this stage of the campaign, what we’re really watching for is the cumulative effect of either the negative or e-mail questions which don’t go away, of the outrage from Trump or even just the crowds building on themselves for Bernie Sanders. Maybe that’s where we are.

SUSAN PAGE: And, of course, we’re pretty far away from the election.

GWEN IFILL: No, we are?

SUSAN PAGE: Yes, we are. We are going to be talking about this for a long time.

What we’re looking now for is kind of what the baseline is going to be, what the landscape is going to be, who has got strengths and weaknesses and how they might play out. But, a year from now, we will still be talking about some of these same characters.

GWEN IFILL: And a year from now, Tamara Keith will probably still be in New Hampshire, but maybe we will see you here this next week.


GWEN IFILL: Tamara Keith of NPR, Susan Page with USA Today, thank you both.

SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.


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