Donald Trump took full advantage of the opportunity Monday to return to blasting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for failing to keep the country safe in the wake of this weekend’s bomb attacks in New York City. And Clinton jumped on the news to prosecute her own case against Trump: that he is a dangerous demagogue whose inflammatory rhetoric puts the nation at further risk.
The polls offer a more nuanced picture. Voters trust Clinton over Trump by a narrow margin when it comes to terrorism and national security — a reversal from past elections when Republicans were seen as the party stronger on national defense. But that’s not the end of the story: Trump’s supporters are far more concerned about terrorism than Clinton’s, suggesting the GOP nominee could appeal to voters who are increasingly anxious about safety at home.
The attacks this weekend present a new backdrop to the one-week run-up to the first general-election debate — a one-on-one showdown on national television between Clinton and Trump, held fewer than 30 miles from the scene of an explosion on the west side of Manhattan that wounded more than two dozen people on Saturday evening.
Both candidates on Monday sought to reinforce their credentials on terrorism and spin it into an advantage. Clinton held a press conference at a suburban New York airport before traveling to Philadelphia, calling herself “the only candidate in this race who has been part of the hard decisions to take terrorists off the battlefield.”