Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said the Republican focus on crime ahead of the 2022 midterm elections was clear hypocrisy, telling CNN’s Don Lemon that the party is not “concerned about voter safety, they just want to keep voters scared.”
Clinton, who will headline her first candidate specific political rally on Thursday night with an event for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, lauded President Joe Biden’s efforts to combat inflation as “truly impressive” but said it is “more challenging to get that focus on the future” than to stoke grievance.
But Clinton’s most pointed attacks for Republicans centered on crime, telling “CNN This Morning” that she found it “ironic” and “frankly disturbing” that Republicans have not been as fervent as calling out the attack on Paul Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, as they have been about making crime a political issue.
Crime has been a dominant issue for Republicans during the 2022 campaign, with the party spending millions to attack their Democratic opponents for being “soft” on the issue or tying them, at times dubiously, to efforts to defund the police.
This has been clearest in the race between Hochul and her GOP challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin, where the Republican has decried crime in New York City in his bid to be the state’s first Republican governor since George Pataki, who left office in 2006 after three terms in office. Zeldin, according to the ad tracker AdImpact, has run six distinct television ads in the last month – five of which have focused on crime. Some of those ads show video of violent crime happening in New York, including shootings and assaults, all of which the Republican blames on Hochul.
Clinton said the focus on crime is Republicans “just trying to gin up all kinds of fear and anxiety in people.”
“They are not dealing with it. They are not trying to tackle it. So I view it as an effort to scare voters,” said the former Democratic presidential nominee.
While Clinton said she agreed that crime was a legitimate concern for voters, she argued Republicans “don’t want to solve a problem, whether it is crime, inflation or anything else, they just want an issue.”
The former secretary of state, who said former President Bill Clinton spoke to Nancy Pelosi after the attack, showed particular contempt for Kari Lake, the Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate who joked about the attack on Paul Pelosi.
The Republican response to the attack, Clinton said, is “sadly a real indicator of where we are in our country right now that you would have people on the Republican ticket, like the woman running in Arizona, laughing about an attack on anyone, let alone an 82-year-old man whose wife happens to be second in line to the presidency.”
“I am rarely shocked any more but … making fun of that attack, somehow trying to turn it into a joke, the same party that wants us to be worried about crime,” Clinton said. “You know, the hypocrisy is incredibly obvious.”
Clinton, despite being one of the best-known Democrats in the country, has been one of the party’s least visible surrogates at campaign rallies in recent years. Her event with Hochul will be the first candidate-specific rally she will headline this year. That New York Democrats are asking for her help to juice turnout in Manhattan underscores the deep anxiety coursing through the party as Election Day nears, with Hochul locked in a tight race against Zeldin.
Polls show a ticket race in New York – with a Quinnipiac University survey released in mid-October finding 50% of likely voters backing Hochul compared to 46% for Zeldin.
Clinton said the tightness in the race between Hochul and Zeldin was “more of a turnout issue” and that the former Democratic presidential nominee expected the Democrat to win on Tuesday.
“But a midterm election is always difficult for the party in power. … We have seen that over and over again in recent history,” Clinton said. “So our job is to convince our voters to turn out because if they turnout, then there is no doubt we will win.”
Clinton said the same issue was facing Democrats across the country, including the Biden administration, which now has to convince voters that their actions now will make their future better.
“It’s really difficult to tell people what is going to happen in the future when, understandably, they are focused on the present,” Clinton said. “So yes, people are worried about the cost of living, they are worried about the economy, although the Republicans have absolutely no plan to do anything about that. … It is more challenging to get that focus on the future.”
This story has been updated with additional comment and background information.