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Clinton Turns To Generalizations; Trump Plays Well With Conservative Christians

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have taken a break from campaigning today to mark the anniversary of September 11.

Earlier in the week, the Clinton campaign focused on reaching out, trying to show a softer, more personal side of the candidate. And it was until this weekend when she spoke at a New York City fundraiser and criticized many Trump supporters as racist and xenophobic. Clinton's rapid response team ended the week having to play defense.

For more on the campaign, we're joined by NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's start with this remark that Hillary Clinton made Friday night in New York. She said, essentially, that half of Trump supporters are deplorable. Trump, of course, leapt on this quickly. Does this hurt her?

LIASSON: It probably hurts her a little. Donald Trump certainly thinks this is a big deal. It seemed to violate rule No. 1 of campaigning, which is it's OK to dis (ph) your opponent but not his supporters. She apologized for using the word half but not for the rest of what she said. And Democrats do not seem terribly worried about this.

Yes, it's a gaffe, not, probably, a race changing one. It gives her an opportunity, every time she has to explain it, to point out that, yes, many of his supporters have expressed racist, xenophobic, Islamic-phobic views, which is what she said at that fundraiser. And some of them are white supremacists. She went on to say that the other half are people who we really need to listen to and empathize with.

So, yes, a mistake - unclear how big.

MARTIN: Let's talk about what she was doing earlier in the week - trying to reach out, show this other side of her - at least that's how her campaign was putting it - trying to pull the curtain back a little bit on who Hillary Clinton is.

LIASSON: They have come to the conclusion that she needs to present a more affirmative case for herself, not just base her campaign on not being Donald Trump. This isn't just to win the White House. It's also to make sure that, if she does win, she has a mandate - that voters know, if they put her in the White House, what they expect her to do.

And she gave a series of speeches. She talked to a Baptist group. She went on a blog called Humans of New York - where better to humanize yourself than a blog called Humans of New York? - where she talked about what's in her heart, what drives her and how it's connected to her plans.

You know, she's given a thousand speeches. She has a million plans. But voters don't seem to know, really, what her administration would do. And because she was off the trail in August, she left a big blank space. And that was filled with discussion of the emails and the foundation. And she is going to try to present an alternative narrative this week.

MARTIN: Let's talk about Donald Trump. He used that NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum this past week to reaffirm, in part, his support and admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He did it again on a Russian-sponsored TV show hosted by Larry King. How is that playing with voters and his supporters?

LIASSON: His supporters - his rock-hard supporters don't care. They're incredibly loyal, as we've seen in a round of new polls that came out this weekend. They're very enthusiastic about him.

But those comments gave another round of heartburn to Republican leaders and foreign-policy professionals who have already abandoned him - many of them - some of them going so far as to endorse Hillary Clinton. Paul Ryan, once again, had to distance himself from remarks saying he certainly doesn't admire Vladimir Putin.

And then, as you said, to go on RT Television, which is a Russian-state backed television that spouts the Kremlin line, to do an interview with Larry King, that just made it worse.

MARTIN: And just briefly, he also spoke to the Values Voter Summit.

LIASSON: Yes. He might have alienated one part of the Republican Coalition, foreign-policy hawks, but he has endeared himself to another, evangelical voters and their leaders. They don't seem to care that he's a thrice-divorced, profane New Yorker. They look at two things he's done that no other Republican presidential candidate has done. He's put out a specific, explicit litmus test for judges. He's put out a list of potential Supreme Court justices who would roll back Roe v. Wade. And he has said he would do away with the Johnson Amendments. Those are the rules that prohibit religious organizations from engaging in politics.

MARTIN: NPR's Mara Liasson.

Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you.

MARTIN: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both attended the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York this morning. Hillary Clinton left unexpectedly. Her campaign spokesman said she felt overheated and went to her daughter Chelsea's apartment and that she was feeling much better. A short while later, Hillary Clinton was seen leaving that apartment, smiling and waving to the crowd.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We say that Trump was divorced three times, when in fact he has been married three times and divorced twice.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.