Feisty zingers, murder accusations, and Twitter wars could be the new benchmark for general election campaigning, if the last 24 hours of feuding between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are any indication of what's to come.
After Clinton delivered a scathing speech on Thursday in which she lambasted her Republican rival's foreign policy platform as "dangerously incoherent," Trump hit back by retweeting a supporter who accused Clinton of killing the four Americans who died in the 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Later in the evening, at a rally in San Jose, California, Trump said Clinton should be jailed for using a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
"I will say this, Hillary Clinton has got to go to jail," Trump said. "Folks, honestly, she's guilty as hell."
In remarks that at times resembled a comedy roast, Clinton unleashed a torrent of polished one-liners to attack Trump's policies and character, suggesting Trump might start a nuclear war if elected to the White House simply because "somebody got under his very thin skin."
"Donald Trump's ideas are not just different, they are dangerously incoherent," she said to a room of supporters in San Diego, California. "They're not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies."
Clinton, the frontrunner in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee, delivered her speech as she seeks to shift her attention to the likely November 8 election matchup against Trump and away from the only other Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, who is continuing his long-shot bid for the nomination.
During her speech, Clinton predicted that Trump, who has been deeply critical of Clinton's foreign policy record, would take to his Twitter account to insult her, and he did, immediately shooting back with a tweet using his new preferred moniker for Clinton: "crooked Hillary."
Bad performance by Crooked Hillary Clinton! Reading poorly from the telepromter! She doesn't even look presidential!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)June 2, 2016
Democratic party leaders have fretted about how to best oppose Trump, who managed to knock out all 16 rivals for the Republican nomination partly with his uninhibited style of assailing them with personal insults. Clinton's remarks were intended in part to show she would not be cowed, and that she could go toe-to-toe with him in scornful put-downs.
"He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia," she said as the crowd guffawed, and she suggested Trump would run the US economy "like one of his casinos."
Amid the laugh lines, Clinton cited her own experience as secretary of state, in particular her role advising President Barack Obama during the mission to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, to suggest her approach to foreign policy was the more serious.
"He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends, including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the pope," Clinton said, listing some of the allies with whom Trump has verbally sparred in the last year.
'He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.'
Trump has talked tough on foreign policy. He has said he would bring back waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects that are widely regarded as torture and were discontinued by Obama.
The presumptive Republican nominee has also vowed to renegotiate trade deals, called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, and said he would ask members of the 28-nation NATO alliance to "pay up" or "get out." He also said he would sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to stop Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Trump has previously called Clinton the "worst secretary of state in the history of the United States," and often pivots to criticisms of her handling of the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, which killed the US ambassador and three other Americans. He has also slammed Clinton's vote of support for the Iraq war launched by President George W. Bush, calling the decision a "disaster."
Those criticisms amplified ten fold with his retweet that appeared on Twitter in the early hours of Friday morning.
Sanders, who has also blasted Clinton over her support of the Iraq war, seized on the opportunity to upbraid both of his rivals on foreign policy. "I agree … that Donald Trump's foreign policy ideas are incredibly reckless and irresponsible," Sanders said in a statement, adding that Clinton's vote for the Iraq war was "the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history."
"She has been a proponent of regime change, as in Libya, without thinking through the consequences," he said.
In assailing each other's suitability for the White House, Clinton and Trump are reflecting a negative voter mood ahead of next month's party conventions that will choose the presidential nominees.
Both Clinton and Trump are facing record-low favorability ratings. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken Friday through Tuesday shows half of Trump supporters say the primary reason they are going to vote for him is "I don't want Hillary Clinton to win," while 41 percent of Clinton supporters cite their primary reason as not wanting Trump to win.
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