Clinton having a quiet August, and for her, that's just fine

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) " It's no day at the beach, but Hillary Clinton is having the political equivalent of a quiet August.

Donald Trump may be dominating the political chatter as he reboots a trailing campaign, but it's Clinton who's winning positive headlines during visits to some of the most competitive states in the presidential race.

The Republican nominee's constant state of campaign chaos is dulling the impact of stories about Clinton's emails and allowing her to spend plenty of time raising money behind closed doors.

"I think she's actually smart to stay quiet at this time. She's not a popular candidate with the Democrats. She has a lot of negatives herself. There's a lot of news that could be made about her," said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Ted Cruz, the Texas senator and onetime Trump rival.

But, Tyler said, it's all "getting subsumed by the black hole candidate that is Donald Trump."

A disastrous stretch for Trump has helped solidify Clinton's lead in national preference polls and most surveys in closely contested states. Clinton campaigned in Ohio and Pennsylvania this past week, and the Democratic nominee's voter registration efforts and policy pitches went largely unnoticed as Trump shook up his campaign staff.

Trump's reshuffling also overshadowed fresh stories about Clinton's use of a private email account and server as secretary of state.

"Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity," said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster who worked for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign.

Clinton seems more than content to let Trump dominate coverage on cable news and in national newspapers. In the meantime, her campaign has carefully courted journalists in the communities she visits, pushing tailored policy messages. For example, stressing her plans to respond to the Zika virus in Florida and how she'd support manufacturing jobs in Detroit.

Local supporters have hit Trump on issues such as his refusal to release his tax returns. Clinton had an opinion piece on water quality in this past week in Florida's Treasure Coast Newspapers.

After an appearance in Ohio on Wednesday, the top headline the next day in The Plain Dealer in Cleveland read, "Clinton Tears Trump Plan to Cut Estate Tax," while The New York Times' main campaign story focused on the tumult in the Trump campaign.

"If the Republicans are spending their time attacking and fighting each other, it gives you a little bit more liberty to go out there and articulate your message. They're not necessarily offering a counter-argument," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who worked in Bill Clinton's White House. "It gives you more real estate in a more uncluttered way to break through."

Republican pollster Greg Strimple said that's not just spin, arguing the "overarching national message of the campaign is not one that can unify the country, so I would focus on doing small events that have local flavor."

"It also keeps her profile lower," he said, "which allows the circular firing squad of the Trump campaign to continue."

Since the bus tour that followed the end of the Democratic convention, Clinton also has focused heavily on fundraising. She has been to more than 10 fundraisers in the first half of the month, hitting mansions in Miami and enjoying a private performance by Aretha Franklin in Detroit.

She's keeping up the pace, heading this weekend to Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast and to California next week. Clinton is on track to top the $90 million she raised for her campaign and Democratic allies in July.

Her campaign has been hard at work in the battleground states, eyeing the start of early voting in some places next month.

At his rallies, Trump often urges his backers to vote. But Clinton gets into the details at her events, plugging registration and urging people to cast absentee ballots.

"If you aren't registered and you're eligible, see the persons with the clipboards here," Clinton said during a recent event in Kissimmee, Florida. "We want you to be registered, and then we want you to be part of this campaign."

Trump has started to advertise on television and appears at ease with his new campaign team. His trip to flood-ravaged Louisiana on Friday won praise from residents who feel overlooked by President Barack Obama. He kept to his vacation schedule on Martha's Vineyard, though the White House announced he would visit Baton Rouge on Tuesday.

While Trump was in Louisiana, Clinton called the state's governor during a day spent fundraising on the East Coast.

"St. Amant loves Trump because he is here in the middle of everything," said Doug Ford, a Trump supporter who put out a sign in his front yard welcoming the Republican to the flooded town, where his trailer was filled with water. "We need him here because the president is not here."

But even with three presidential debates to come and the prospect of more negative stories about Clinton's emails, Republicans say she is well positioned to avoid the pitfalls that could arrive before the November vote.

"She's just got to execute a campaign professionally," said Tyler, the former Cruz aide. "If she does that, she's overwhelmingly likely to win."


Lerer reported from Washington.


Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in St. Amant, Louisiana, contributed to this report.


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This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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