While the Donald Trump-versus-Megyn Kelly feud dominated the political airwaves after the first Republican presidential primary debate last week, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton argues that it was an answer uttered by Marco Rubio that should have garnered the most attention.
Clinton told reporters in New Hampshire on Monday that Trump "went way overboard — offensive, outrageous, pick your adjective — but what Rubio said has as much of an impact in terms of where the Republican Party is today as anybody else on that stage, and it is deeply troubling."
Rubio says he would ban abortion even for women who got pregnant through rape or incest — a stance he espoused during the debate and later defended in television interviews. Energized by Rubio's confident performance, his campaign tried to get as much mileage as possible from the candidate's hard-line position.
So did Clinton. And that pleased Rubio.
"Hillary Clinton holds radical views on abortion that we look forward to exposing in the months to come," Rubio said in a statement a few hours after he was singled out by the Democratic front-runner. Among other things, he cited Clinton's support for legal late-term abortions.
The potential rivals found an issue both could seize. Clinton appeals to women who are crucial to the Democratic political base. Rubio appeals to religious conservatives who will be key in early voting states such as Iowa.
Yet both strategies have a downside. By singling him out, Clinton, 67, risks reminding Republicans of the sharp generational contrast Rubio, 44, would represent if she's nominated. And Rubio imperils his ability to attract Democratic and independent voters by promoting a position that is unpopular to many — the kind of stance that can win a GOP primary but lose a general election.
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