Donald Trump Has Been Attacking The Scandals Of The 1990s The scandals of the 1990s are back as presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump dubs likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton an enabler of her husband's extramarital affairs.

Donald Trump Is Bringing Back The '90s To Attack Hillary Clinton. Will It Work?

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The two presumptive presidential nominees in each party - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - have historically high unfavorable ratings, which means it was only a matter of time before the race for the White House got ugly. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: If there was any doubt that the 2016 election would be nasty, it was gone by this week when Donald Trump uploaded an Instagram video with a picture of Bill Clinton chomping a cigar and a voiceover from a woman who, in the '90s, accused Clinton of assaulting her in 1978.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It was an assault.

JUANITA BROADDRICK: He starts to bite on my top lip, and I try to pull away from him.


LIASSON: The wicked witch laughter is Hillary Clinton from a completely unrelated event. Then there's a caption - quote, "is Hillary really protecting women?" Trump's been pushing this line of attack all year. Here's what he said at a campaign event in Washington state.


DONALD TRUMP: She's married to a man who hurt many women. And Hillary, if you look and see - you study, Hillary hurt many women, the women that he abused.

LIASSON: Trump has yet to produce any evidence of exactly how Hillary hurt those women. The Clinton campaign says it's confident the attacks from Trump won't hurt. They're old news, her advisers say. Clinton herself has chosen not to respond directly. Instead she stuck to attacks on Trump's temperament, qualifications and his positions on taxes and immigration. Here she is on CNN in January.


CLINTON: I have no response. I'm going to let them say whatever he wants to say. He can run his campaign however he wishes.

LIASSON: So here's the big question. Will this re-litigation of the Clinton sex scandals be as ineffective as it was in the '90s, or will a whole new generation of voters have a different reaction? Anna Greenberg is a Democratic pollster.

ANNA GREENBERG: I think the ironic impact is actually to make her more sympathetic. And I think it is very difficult for male candidates to attack female candidates on credentials, on personal life. I think that in every campaign that I've worked in, when a male candidate starts personal attacks on a female candidate - particularly in this case, it's sort of guilt by association, if you will - women react very poorly to that.

LIASSON: That's what happened 17 years ago, when attacks like that backfired. Clinton's advisers insist the same thing will happen today. They say women will reject the claim that Hillary Clinton enabled her husband's infidelities. But Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway thinks things have changed. Now majorities of voters say Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy. And, says Conway, a new generation of female voters will have a different reaction.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: What this does is it makes people who are unfamiliar with Bill Clinton's legacy in the 1990s and his presidency - it makes them just go and Google Monica Lewinsky or Juanita Broaddrick or Hillary Clinton and Paula Jones. And there is a treasure trove of factual information. Look; the last time I didn't sexually harass someone in the workplace, I didn't pay them $850,000.

LIASSON: That's how much Bill Clinton paid Paula Jones. Hillary Clinton does have advantages with women voters. Conway admits that - but, she says, not across the board.

CONWAY: Look at the way Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old self-avowed socialist, is beating her among young women. She's struggling with millennial women. They feel like they have very little in common with her except for her gender.

LIASSON: The gender gap is maybe what this is all about. Trump needs to close it, and he knows it. At the NRA convention last week, he made an explicit appeal to women.


TRUMP: I will say my poll numbers with men are through the roof, but I like women more than men. Come on, women. Let's go. Come on.

LIASSON: But the Clinton campaign and its affiliated superPACs are doing their best to make sure Trump doesn't improve his standing with women. Last week, Priorities USA began running this ad using Trump's own words about women.


TRUMP: Does she have a good body - no. Does she have a fat [expletive] - absolutely. You like girls that are 5-foot-1? They come up to you know where. If Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her.

LIASSON: Yuck and double yuck. The attacks on Clinton and the attacks on Trump are all pretty gross. They could make just enough women stay home in the fall. And that, says Conway, could help Trump.

CONWAY: George W. Bush actually lost women twice by 11 points to Al Gore in 2000 and by three points in 2004 to John Kerry and yet won the election. So I think if Mr. Trump got 45 to 46 percent of the female vote, he would likely be the next president of the United States.

LIASSON: And maybe that's the strategy behind Trump's latest attacks. Or maybe there's no strategy, just a visceral, almost feral instinct for the weaknesses of his opponent. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.

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