WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton denounced Donald Trump's controversial comments about immigrants in her first national interview as a 2016 presidential candidate. But in the process, she inadvertently handed Republican rival Jeb Bush a present on a silver platter.
The Democratic front-runner told CNN's Brianna Keilar Tuesday that she was "very disappointed" with the celebrity hotelier for calling some Mexican migrants rapists and criminals. She criticized the rest of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates for not moving quickly enough to distance themselves from Trump and noted their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.
"He doesn't believe in a path to citizenship. If he did at one time, he no longer does," she said of Bush, the former governor of Florida.
The broadside could hurt Bush among Hispanic voters if Clinton succeeds in portraying him as opposed to immigration reform. It's a smart, long-term play against a well-funded Republican with a decent chance of winning the nomination.
For the moment, however, Bush faces more immediate challenges as he traverses early primary states. Chief among them is his effort to win over conservatives who believe that he supports granting undocumented immigrants "amnesty." In fact, Bush says that undocumented workers should be able to earn legal status, “not necessarily citizenship.” Clinton, however, says that anything short of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is "code for second-class status."
Immigration remains one of the most divisive topics among Republicans in the early caucus state of Iowa, but there are still far more who oppose a path to citizenship than support it. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, 46 percent of likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa said undocumented immigrants should be required to leave the country, while 34 percent said they should be allowed to stay with some sort of path to citizenship.
Any reminder that Bush opposes "amnesty" is good news in Iowa -- regardless of whether it comes from the candidate or his potential Democratic rival.