COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hillary Rodham Clinton called out Republican front-runner Donald Trump for disparaging women – saying that she would relish a debate with him.
“There is one particular candidate who just seems to delight in insulting women at every chance he gets,” the former first lady and secretary of state said at a campaign event Thursday. “I have to say if he emerges, I would love to debate him.”
Clinton’s comments came after Trump insulted fellow Republican Carly Fiorina’s appearance in a Rolling Stone article, saying: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
On Thursday Trump tried to walk back those comments, saying on CNN that he was “not talking about looks” and was instead “talking about persona.”
Trump also was critical of Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, suggesting that she asked him tough questions during the GOP debate because she was menstruating.
Clinton’s Trump line earned some of the loudest applause from the several hundred supporters who attended a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio’s largest city. Clinton used much of her speech to draw contrasts with the Republican field – at one point urging audience members to tune in to the GOP debate next week.
The state is a key battleground in the general election, but isn’t particularly important in the primary process. Clinton beat Barack Obama here by 10 points in 2008 in the Democratic primary.
Clinton made only a veiled reference to her top Democratic competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, saying voters deserve detailed plans not just promises in broad strokes. A new Quinnipiac poll out Thursday morning showed him leading her by one point in Iowa, the first caucus state. Polls have shown him ahead in New Hampshire, the first primary state.
Sanders, speaking in Washington on Thursday, said the Iowa poll shows momentum for his antiestablishment campaign. Tens of thousands are flocking to hear his liberal message of breaking up large financial institutions and pushing power away from special interests and wealthy individuals.
“We’re seeing just a huge amount of enthusiasm from working people and low-income people,” he said. “This will shock people inside the Beltway … The middle class of this country is disappearing.”
Clinton provided plenty of red meat to fire up her base of women voters in her speech – expressing support for higher wages, equal pay for women, Planned Parenthood, and a woman’s right to have an abortion.
But she also defended centrists, and her preference for sitting down with leaders who hold opposite views to forge compromise. “I’ve been accused of being a moderate,” Clinton said at one point. “I plead guilty.”
She also showed a flash of humor, acknowledging the negative headlines about her private e-mail server that has dogged her for months. “Controversy seems to follow me around,” Clinton said.
Clinton left without taking questions from reporters. She has fund-raisers planned today in Columbus and Cincinnati.
STAT reporter David Nather contributed to this report. Annie Linskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.