WASHINGTON—With the Democratic primary behind her, Hillary Clinton said she now plans to put Republican Donald Trump’s economic record and agenda at the center of her campaign, calling his ideas “deeply misguided” and “dangerously incoherent.”
In an interview Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton said she would deliver an economic speech soon contrasting Mr. Trump’s record and policies with her own, modeled after a foreign-policy speech she gave last week. In that speech, she offered a robust and often biting critique of the presumptive Republican nominee’s stances on global affairs, charging he was “temperamentally unfit” to serve as commander-in-chief.
Mr. Trump is hardly shrinking from the fight. He promised Tuesday night to deliver a “major speech” as early as Monday laying out the case for how Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have perfected what he called the “politics of personal enrichment.”
With the general election now effectively under way, the exchanges left no doubt that the next five months will be particularly bitter and divisive as both candidates strive to patch up divisions within their own parties while asserting the other shouldn’t be president.
For her own part, Mrs. Clinton promised in the interview to put forth a middle-class tax-cut plan, which she said would be a “critical” part of the case she makes to voters. She wouldn’t say whether she supports bipartisan efforts to overhaul the corporate tax code by lowering rates and eliminating some tax breaks, but she promised more details in the weeks ahead.
The interview came a day after the former first lady, senator and secretary of state made history as the first woman to capture the nomination of a major political party. She plans to travel to Ohio and Pennsylvania next week, two states where some analysts have predicted that Mr. Trump’s brand of economic populism will resonate, particularly with white, working-class men.
Mrs. Clinton said she was also working to unify Democrats. She spoke to rival Bernie Sanders on Tuesday evening and said she would continue making the case to his supporters that there is more that unites than divides them.
Mr. Sanders, a Vermont senator, during the long primary campaign repeatedly hit Mrs. Clinton for her ties to Wall Street, including donations from employees of big banks and paid speeches. Asked if she would consider including people who have worked on Wall Street in her economic team, she said the question was premature but that she wasn’t ruling it out.
“I’m not ruling in, I’m not ruling out,” she said. “I will always look for the best people when and if that opportunity arises, and I think there’s a lot of people around the country, not just in one place in our country, with the kind of experience that would be useful.”
Facing an unconventional opponent in an unpredictable year, Mrs. Clinton said she will have to work to explain her economic policy—replete with targeted tax cuts and hard-to-understand provisions such as one that would “claw back” tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs. But she also expressed confidence that voters are open to the sort of policy detail she revels in and will choose her brand of wonkery over Mr. Trump’s blunt vows to “make America great again.”
Her economic address will come later this month, an aide said, but the candidate offered an unsparing preview on Wednesday, pointing to Mr. Trump’s plan for large tax cuts, trade threats and his suggestion that the U.S. might opt to default on its debt.
“It’s not hard to see how a Trump presidency could actually lead to a serious global economic crisis,” she said.
A Trump spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
On the economy, Mr. Trump has aimed his campaign squarely at voters’ deep economic anxiety eight years after the recession hit. For instance, the number of jobs added monthly has slipped in recent months, and fell to just 38,000 in May, the lowest number since 2010.
Mr. Trump paints his policies with broad brushes, railing against trade agreements and immigration, promising to create jobs and deliver huge across-the-board tax cuts.
“We are going to have fantastic trade deals,” he said Tuesday evening. “We’re going to start making money and bringing in jobs.”
Mrs. Clinton’s style could hardly be more different. Over the course of the primary, she announced 53 different policy proposals totaling 201 pages, an aide said. She would use the tax code to deter short-term investing, encourage companies to share profits with their workers and ease burdens on the middle class through targeted credits.
The open question is whether this raft of ideas is too subtle for an anxious electorate, where many voters have lost confidence in the political system’s ability to improve their lives.
“While he may have some catchy sound bites, his statements on the economy are dangerously incoherent. They are deeply misguided and they reflect an individual who is temperamentally unfit to manage the American economy,” she said.
Polling suggests she has a tough task. While she is seen by voters as better able to handle foreign policy, on economic issues, Mr. Trump opens the general election with the edge, Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling last month found.
Asked about four economic issues, voters rated Mr. Trump as better equipped to handle three: dealing with Wall Street, trade and the economy overall. Mrs. Clinton drew the stronger marks only on which candidate could best look out for the middle class.
Voters feeling the most economic distress are more likely to gravitate to Mr. Trump. Of voters who said they were still feeling “a lot” of effects from the recession, 56% favored Mr. Trump for president, and 26% backed Mrs. Clinton, the Journal/NBC News polling in May found.
source: The Wall Street Journal, by Laura Meckler, June 8, 2016