By Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes - 11-02-16 16:26 PM EDT
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is going negative in the final days before the election as she seeks to bury the FBI's investigation into her email set-up under a blizzard of attacks against Donald Trump.
Clinton will "detail Donald Trump's divisive agenda" and his "long record of insults against communities of color" at campaign stops in Nevada and Arizona on Wednesday, a campaign aide said.
The campaign is distributing talking points to surrogates instructing them to describe Trump as "unfit" for office and to portray him as a loose cannon who can't be trusted to "keep his cool during times of crisis."
Those lines of attack will be supplemented by millions of dollars worth of negative ads airing in battleground states.
Black voters will be treated to ads about how Trump "consistently mocks the African American community and has undermined the legitimacy of the first African American president."
Hispanic voters will hear about Trump's "divisive agenda" in a series of Spanish-language ads, as well as warnings from Clinton on the campaign trail that the GOP nominee plans to "round up" and deport their friends and family members.
Ads targeting Republicans and independents will highlight Trump's "revolting views on and actions toward women," with a special focus on the 12 women who have accused him of groping or unwanted advances.
Clinton's allies had hoped she could coast to the finish line by highlighting the historic nature of her candidacy and policy prescriptions she says will lift the poor and neglected.
But the tightening presidential race - punctuated by Republicans coalescing around Trump and his improved standing among women - has moved Clinton to instead focus on tearing her rival down, sources close to the campaign say.
"She's got to," said one ally close to the campaign. "Voters need to be reminded who this guy is and what he stands for. We have no other choice."
The negative barrage is reflective of a new reality for the Clinton campaign, which only a week ago appeared to be headed for a comfortable victory.
FBI Director James Comey's decision to notify Congress that agents are looking at newly discovered Clinton emails on Friday has changed the dynamic and has both angered and spooked Democrats.
A Washington Post/ABC News survey released this week shows the race is a dead heat nationally. That survey, released in the wake of the FBI news, also found that most voters believe Trump is more honest and trustworthy than Clinton.
Trump is getting a boost in the polls as once-skeptical Republicans appear to be breaking late in his direction. The Clinton campaign once talked confidently about turning red states blue, but new surveys out of Arizona, Texas, Georgia. Missouri and Indiana show Trump pulling away.
And a new round of surveys out of Pennsylvania show Trump within striking distance there, with the GOP nominee boosted by an improved favorability rating and growing support from the women who once shunned his campaign.
The FBI news is also troubling for Clinton, because in this cycle the presidential candidate who has been in the news the most has suffered from it. Trump's low point in the campaign came as headlines were dominated by talk of the 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump talks lewdly about groping women.
With the headlines now dominated by Clinton and the FBI, the Democrat's campaign is trying to shift the focus back Trump.
The Clinton campaign badly wants voters to support the Democrat rather than just oppose Trump.
But Trump's gains mean that a more inspirational message aimed at improving Clinton's image will have to wait for another day, one Clinton adviser told The Hill.
"It would seem there's an opportunity to paint a more optimistic picture of a post-Election Day world where people can begin to come together to get things done," the source said. "But it may be that such a message doesn't move the needle and needs to await a victory."
Clinton's campaign on Tuesday trotted out Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe winner whose weight gain was criticized by Trump.
"He told me that I looked ugly and I was massive," Machado said Tuesday. "He even called me names, he said to me Miss Piggy, Miss Housekeeping, Miss Eating Machine ... he thinks he can do whatever he wants get away with it. ... Together we'll say loudly and clearly, No, Trump is not getting away with it'."
Clinton followed Machado on stage and spent the bulk of her 30-minute speech laying into Trump.
She reminded supporters of Trump's feud with Indiana judge whom Trump attacked for his Mexican heritage and of his spat with the family of a fallen U.S. soldier.
She criticized Trump for questioning the president's birthplace and warned he would "round up" and deport millions of people in the country illegally who were "working and raising their families in the U.S."
But the bulk of Clinton's attacks focused on how Trump has "spent a lot of time demeaning, degrading and insulting women."
"He calls women ugly, disgusting, and nasty all the time," Clinton said. "He calls women pigs and rates bodies on a scale of 1 to 10."
The focus on women highlights Clinton's efforts to win that demographic, which could decide the election. Democrats are worried that turnout by black voters might not be as high as in President Obama's two victories.
The attacks focused on women could serve a second purpose of drawing Trump into an unforced error.
Trump's feud with Machado frustrated Republicans, who vented at his indiscipline and his propensity to take the Clinton campaign's bait.
So far this week, Trump has not been drawn into unnecessary controversy, sticking instead to scripted remarks at his campaign rallies.
"Trump has always done better attacking Clinton," said GOP strategist Nino Saviano. "And if he has any chance of pulling this election off, he has to take full advantage of this on-again email scandal and keep attacking Clinton non-stop and without veering off-message."