In what could be a preview of the general election, Hillary Clinton went on the attack against potential Republican rival Jeb Bush during a trip to the swing state of Colorado designed to spur Democratic organizing.
The Democratic frontrunner ripped her attack on the former Florida governor straight from the day’s news, targeting a comment Bush had made just hours earlier across the country about women’s health spending as well as his position on immigration reform.
“Jeb Bush said he is not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” Clinton told nearly 300 Coloradans who had gathered in a Denver dance hall, many to organize for her. “Now, he has got no problem giving billions of dollars away to super wealthy and powerful corporations, but I guess women’s health just isn’t a priority for him.”
“This really isn’t complicated,” Clinton continued. “When you attack Planned Parenthood, you attack women’s health, and when you attack women’s health, you attack America’s health.”
Bush had already said he misspoke when he mused that the federal government might not need to spend the entire $500 million it gives to Planned Parenthood to operate health clinics, but that didn’t stop Clinton, who had already harshly criticized the remark on Twitter.
Clinton has sharpened her attacks on Republicans in recent weeks, especially on issues that could drive key groups of Democratic voters to the polls, such as ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, making it easier to vote and promoting women’s health.
“I have been, as many of you have, fighting for women and children and families for my entire life,” Clinton told the crowd. “I am really tired of the double-speak. I am tired of women being shamed and blamed and dismissed.”
Tuesday evening marked Clinton’s first organizing event outside of the early primary states. The goal of organizing is to create a network of committed volunteers and commitments to vote.
At the event Tuesday Clinton also launched a less direct attack on Bush’s immigration plan, mentioning his super PAC “Right to Rise,” but not naming Bush directly.
“I don’t know how anyone can say they believe in a ‘Right to Rise’ and then push policies that leave behind millions of hardworking people and families, and even expose them to deportation,” Clinton said. “That is not the America we believe in and has been a home for immigrants across our history.”
Bush said Monday night in a Medium post that he would focus on securing the Mexico-U.S. by building more operating bases for border patrols and increasing surveillance. He also said he would deport more people who overstay their visas and crack down on sanctuary cities.
In the past, Bush has expressed support for a path to citizenship, but has since changed his views, proposing only going as far as “a rigorous path to earned legal status” that would require immigrants learn English, pay fines and pass criminal background checks.
Colorado is a significant state for Clinton to address immigration. It’s a Super Tuesday state, placing it among a dozen states whose contests fall in early March, a week after the Nevada primary, and its population is about one-fifth Hispanic.
And while the Clinton campaign views Colorado as part of its nominating contest strategy, the campaign is eyeing bolstering the state’s Democratic infrastructure for a general election.
Clinton has connections with many of the key Democrats in Colorado.
Michael Bennet, the state’s Democratic Senator, is the former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the co-chair of the pro-Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA, is Guy Cecil, who was executive director at the DSCC the same time Bennet was there.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has endorsed Clinton and was at two fundraisers for Clinton earlier in the day, an aide to the governor confirmed.
Ken Salazar, a U.S. Senator from 2005 to 2009 who served along with Clinton in the Obama was in the audience during Clinton’s event. Clinton has the support of the state’s Democratic delegation to the House of Representatives, including Rep. Diana DeGette, one of the speakers who introduced Clinton on Tuesday.
But Democrats in Colorado have been getting restless for Clinton to begin serious organizing efforts in the state, said Alan Salazar, a senior aide to Hickenlooper. The governor, the congressional delegation and other prominent Democrats are anxious for the Clinton campaign to invest time and money in the state.
Though Clinton’s campaign has long maintained the focus is on the primary contests, she has been ramping up her public events in key general election swing states. On Friday, she held two public events in Florida, and at the end of the month she will visit Ohio for an organizing event.
Obama won Colorado by substantial margins over John McCain and Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012, but Republicans managed to defeat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in 2014 in a hard-fought race. Assuming that Clinton wins the general election, it will be crucial for her campaign to keep the state voting blue.
The mood at the event Friday was supportive, but morale had sunk a bit by the time Clinton began her 13-minute comments: many people were standing for two-and-a-half hours waiting for her to arrive.
““I mostly just came to get a sense of her personality,” said Eva Grant, a recent graduate of Colorado College. “I wanted her to shine. She definitely had a warm, I-will-love-you-forever vibe, but she didn’t really inspire me.”
Clinton is likely to maintain a hardline on immigration and women’s health against all the Republican candidates, as its an issue that plays well with the Democratic base. “The truth is, what Jeb said, the other Republican candidates believe too,” Clinton said.
At the event, Deborah Harvey, a pre-kindergarten teacher and mother said she finds Clinton “relatable” to “average folks.” When asked about Clinton’s views on women’s health and family leave, Harvey added, “I have young girls and I would like to see all of those rights afforded to them.”