DADE CITY, Florida — Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made her most direct appeal yet Tuesday for women to reject the candidacy of Donald Trump, recounting at length a history of degrading statements about women made by her Republican rival, as well as allegations of unwanted sexual advances.
Clinton’s broadside on Trump at a Florida campaign event comes as she tries to redirect attention from Friday’s news about the renewed FBI scrutiny related to her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
Trump, meanwhile, concentrated his rhetoric of the day on the Affordable Care Act, saying he would call a “special session” of Congress to repeal and replace the law that he says is causing rising health insurance premiums, an issue he is trying to weigh down the Clinton campaign with.
Calling Trump “someone who wants to bully us,” Clinton was introduced at the rally by Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe whom Trump once berated for gaining weight after winning the title and attacked on Twitter in the aftermath of the first presidential debate.
Machado grew emotional while speaking about Trump’s disparaging remarks about her appearance in the 1990s, saying that “it is clear he does not respect women … he thinks he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.” Machado added that for years afterward she fought eating disorders.
Clinton spoke at length about the allegations against Trump and said that he has revealed himself to have little respect for women by “demeaning, degrading, insulting and assaulting” them. She said that Trump’s comments and the accusations have brought back “painful” memories of similar experiences for women across the country.
“Look at what he does. He calls women ugly, disgusting, nasty, all the time. He calls women pigs, rates bodies on a scale from one to ten,” Clinton told the crowd.
At one point, she detailed accusations from former pageant contestants that Trump would walk into the dressing rooms to “inspect them.”
“Now, as bad as that is, he didn’t just do it at the Miss USA pageant or the Miss Universe pageant, he’s also been accused of doing this at the Miss Teen USA pageant,” Clinton told the crowd. “We cannot hide from this. We’ve got to be willing to face it. This man wants to be president of the United States of America!”
Earlier in the day, during a campaign event in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Trump took direct aim at the Affordable Care Act and again promised to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
“When we win on November 8th and elect a Republican Congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare. Have to do it. I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace,” Trump said during a midday speech here.
There appears to be no necessity for a “special session” on Capitol Hill. The current Congress will reconvene soon after the election. And early next year, the new one will gavel in.
The Clinton campaign also released a new ad Tuesday featuring clips of Trump speaking about women in disparaging ways. Aides said the ad will air in eight targeted states, including Arizona, a heavily Republican state where Clinton is making a late play.
The campaign also plans to begin airing its first television ads of the general election in Michigan and New Mexico and will return to the airwaves in Virginia and Colorado after a months-long hiatus, a campaign official said. Recent polls have shown Clinton leading in those states. Her new ads will air in Albuquerque and statewide in Michigan. In Colorado, the ads will run in the Denver, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs markets. And in Virginia, they will go up in the Richmond, Charlottesville and Roanoke markets. All four states will see a six-figure investment, according to a campaign official.
“The Trump campaign claims their path to White House is through states like these but we’re going to make sure those doors remain shut,” said Jesse Ferguson, Clinton’s deputy national press secretary.
The flurry of activity comes as public surveys show the race tightening and the Clinton campaign is seeking to shore up support in several states where she had maintained comfortable margins so far. News that FBI Director James Comey is revisiting his probe into the potential mishandling of classified material in Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state has roiled the closing days of the contest.
In a statement, Trump’s senior communications adviser Jason Miller characterized the Clinton’s new ad reservations as a defensive move.
“It’s notable that in the final week of this campaign it is actually the Clinton campaign being put on defense and being forced to start advertising in so-called ‘blue states’ to hold off Mr. Trump’s surge in the polls, including two states the Clinton campaign boasted of having put away months ago,” Miller said.
The Trump campaign announced it was also investing $25 million in advertising across 12 states, including New Mexico and Michigan. But it did not say how much would go to each location.
Clinton still leads Trump by an average of four points in Colorado, five points in Virginia, seven points in New Mexico, and seven points in Michigan according to RealClearPolitics.
Trump was scheduled to be speak in Wisconsin Tuesday evening, but House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who has had an uneasy relationship with Trump throughout the campaign, said in a television interview Tuesday that while he has voted for Trump, he has no plans to campaign for him in the final week of the race.
“I stand where I’ve stood all fall and all summer. In fact, I already voted here in Janesville for our nominee last week in early voting,” Ryan said in an interview on Fox News Channel. “We need to support our entire Republican ticket.”
Ryan’s remarks highlighted the extraordinary lack of unity that continues to plague the Republican Party with Election Day drawing near. Ryan said on Fox News that he learned of Trump’s planned Wisconsin visit only “about 10 minutes ago” and did not plan to be there. Instead, he would be in Indiana, Michigan, New York and Virginia campaigning for House Republicans.
After The Washington Post reported last month that Trump was heard on a hot microphone making vulgar comments in 2005 about forcing himself on women sexually, Ryan announced that he would no longer campaign for Trump or defend him. He said Tuesday that his position has not changed.
“I’m just crisscrossing the country right now fighting for congressional Republicans,” said the speaker.
On health care, however, Ryan said the House GOP plan to repeal and replace the law known as Obamacare is “virtually one in the same” with Trump’s.
A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll conducted Thursday through Sunday showed Trump at 46 percent and Clinton 45 percent in a four-way contest. The poll finds little shift in Clinton’s overall support after news of the FBI’s renewed look at her emails, but strong enthusiasm among her supporters fell behind Trump in combined Saturday and Sunday interviews.
Clinton’s attacks on Trump’s treatment of women follow a day in which she repeatedly argued that he doesn’t have the temperament to control the nation’s nuclear arsenal and conduct its foreign policy.
Speaking to reporters en route to Florida, a senior Clinton aide said that the campaign does not believe the renewed scrutiny by the FBI is hurting Clinton’s standing in the polls.
“The race has tightened the way that we thought it would tighten but … we do not see anything that would suggest that the FBI story is impacting our support,” said the aide, who requested anonymity to speak more freely about campaign strategy.
Asked why Clinton is spending so much time in Florida, the aide said: “It’s a state that we think we’ll win. It’s a state that Trump has to win. … Obviously we don’t think he has any path without Florida.”
Clinton has sharpened her attack on Trump in recent days, and plans to continue to do that Wednesday in Arizona, where she’ll speak about his record as a divider and her ability to unite the country, the aide said.
The goal, the aide said, is “to reframe and refresh the choice for those voters who that in the middle or have gone back and forth between Trump and Clinton.”
Washington Post writers Sean Sullivan, Abby Phillip, Anne Gearan, Emily Guskin, Scott Clement and Paul Kane contributed to this report.