Hillary Clinton delivered a blistering, full-frontal attack on Donald Trump’s personal business record and his economic proposals on Tuesday in Ohio, questioning Trump’s wealth and saying his policies would send the United States into an economic recession.
Speaking in Columbus, the presumptive Democratic nominee painted Trump as a businessman with a poor track record who would be dangerous for the U.S. economy. She mocked him for not releasing his tax returns, proposing tax changes she said would favor millionaires and what she called “reckless” plans for addressing the national debt.
For nearly 45 straight minutes, Clinton portrayed Trump as a heartless boss who “stiffed” his own contractors and ran his own businesses into ruin.
“Today his properties are sold shuttered or falling apart. So are a lot of people’s lives,” Clinton said. “We cannot let him bankrupt America like we are one of his failed casinos.”
The speech echoed themes from a similar one on Trump’s foreign policy ideas she gave in San Diego on June 2 and another on his response to the Orlando shooting on June 14. The speeches repeated Trump’s own arguments and quotes to argue that he is unqualified for the presidency, at times veering into a more sarcastic biting tone than Clinton has used before in the campaign to mock him.
At one point, Clinton said that she was genuinely incredulous when her staffers sent her some of Trump’s statements.
“When I was working on this speech,” Clinton said, “I had my researchers and speechwriters send me information. And then I’d say, really? He really said that?”
Clinton gave the speech at the Fair Hayes vocational school near downtown Columbus, standing near industrial-sized car racks and heavy machinery. At one point, she referred back to the Obama Administration’s bailout of the auto industry.
The speech was among the more personal attacks that Clinton has used against Trump, who has grounded his claim to the presidency on his business record. Trump responded to the remarks on Twitter, embracing an old quote he had made about using debt in his business.
He also fired back at Clinton’s record as Secretary of State.
Ohio has been a decisive swing state in past elections, but Democrats see it as particularly important this year: with its large white working class population and relatively few Latinos, some believe it could be more open to Trump than states like Florida or Virginia.
Once a powerhouse in the steel and auto industries, the state has also lost manufacturing jobs in recent years as businesses have moved overseas or been automated. Democrats believe that Trump’s anti-trade message may have particular resonance in the state.
Several audience members at the Fort Hayes Vocational School said they believed the economy had improved under President Obama since 2009 and wanted a president who would continue that.
“A lot of times the theaters are downtown and it can be sketchier sometimes,” said Mike Faue, a 50-year-old percussionist for The Lion King who has come to Columbus several times since the recession. “But when you come back and it’s nicer and there are more local businesses, it’s kind of cool to see.”
Clinton’s support of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 will make her vulnerable in Ohio, though she has recently said she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership and won the state over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary by significant margins.
Throughout, she attacked Trump’s business record, including his Trump University, which has been widely called a scam and is the target of multiple lawsuits. Attendees said the university did not offer real classes and charged exorbitant fees, encouraging students to go into debt to pay for more seminars. Trump has also been accused of not properly compensating contractors who worked on his hotel properties in the Atlantic City.
“He’s written a lot of books about his business. They all seem to end at Chapter 11,” Clinton quipped.
Trump’s allies have telegraphed that they plan to attack Bill Clinton’s own connections to a for-profit college system called Laureate University, where the former President served as an “honorary chancellor.”
A Trump policy adviser, Steve Miller, said this month that Laureate improperly profited from State Department money while Clinton was Secretary of State. A non-profit that Laureate coordinated with received federal grants during the years Hillary was Secretary of State, but there is no evidence that the grants directly benefited Laureate.
Ohioans, Clinton said, are better than Trump. “There are great business people in America and in Ohio. They want to build something that lasts. They’re decent, they’re honest they’re patriots, Clinton said. “They would never dream of acting the way Donald Trump does.”
In an acerbically negative general election year, both candidates have taken to calling their opponents “unqualified” to be president. “Secretary Clinton is so well qualified to be president of the United States and Donald Trump—he’s not qualified to lead a parade,” said former Ohio governor and now candidate for U.S. Senate, Ted Strickland, when introducing Clinton.
Trump is planning to deliver his own speech calling Clinton “unfit” to be president, previewing his intentions with a tweet ahead of Clinton’ remarks.