Not a lunatic you’re looking for

Hillary Clinton’s first taste of politics came as a teenage Republican “Goldwater girl” during the 1964 presidential campaign. Her conservative hero Barry Goldwater’s slogan was: “In your heart, you know he’s right.” Democrats had a rejoinder: “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”

Clinton on Thursday laid out a case that Trump is essentially nuts — “a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction ... detached from reality” — and a practitioner of bigotry whose campaign has provided a major-party megaphone to “a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment.”

Alluding to Trump’s pitches of late to black and Latino voters, Clinton told a Reno, Nevada, audience, she said he “is trying to rebrand himself” but’ “his real message remains ‘Make America hate again.’ ”

Trump took umbrage, and so should his supporters, he said: “They’ll accuse decent Americans who support this campaign — your campaign — of being racists, which we’re not.” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday on Trump’s minority outreach.

Her suggestion that he's essentially an unrepentant racist takes a page out of Trump's playbook, at least one analyst suggests. Meanwhile Trump sought to revive friction over her "super predators" comments from 1994.

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Trump: She did the crime

Along with a prebuttal of Clinton’s speech, Trump at a New Hampshire rally kept hammering at his opponent’s vulnerabilities on her private email server and Clinton foundation donors.

“The veil was pulled back on a vast criminal enterprise run out of the State Department by Hillary Clinton ... access and favors were sold for cash,” he said.

Hofstra on the horizon

A month from now, on Sept. 26, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will meet in their first debate at Hofstra University.

Here’s an early viewing tip:

Should a moderator trot out this old standby question — “Is there something nice you can say about your opponent?” — that’s probably a safe time to make a run to the fridge or check in on the football game.

The take-away: Offense as defense

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Much of what we heard this week from Clinton and Trump added up to a mutual deflection of nasty accusations through counterattacks, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Backs against the wall

Trump’s mulling of a “softening” of a mass-deportation policy for immigrants here illegally has distressed some of his core supporters, The New York Times reported.

Some, such as far-right author Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin, take consolation that he is still promising to build a wall on the Mexican border. But Palin told The Wall Street Journal, “If Mr. Trump were to go down a path of wishy-washy positions taken on things that the core foundation of his support has so appreciated ... there would be massive disappointment.”

Trump added more confusion Thursday by telling CNN that the immigrants would have to leave before coming back and getting on a path to legalization. Also, the “softening” he spoke of may be a “hardening.” (Video here.) 

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Change, you can believe in

Wednesday’s version seemed to echo Jeb Bush’s stand during the GOP primaries. Bush said Thursday that Trump’s views “seem to be ever, ever changing, depending on what crowd he’s in front of.”

Bush told WABC Radio: “I can only say that whatever his views are this morning, they might change this afternoon, and they were different than they were last night, and they’ll be different tomorrow.”

What else is happening:

  • Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said on her candidate and immigration: “There’s not a different message. He’s using different words to give that message.”
  • A Pew Research Center poll found most Americans disagree with hard-line policies toward immigrants here illegally, and 61% oppose building a wall on the Mexican border.
  • Clinton's economic plan includes giving smaller banks regulatory relief she says she would not grant to the big institutions, the WSJ reports.
  • The Trump campaign’s new CEO, former Breitbart News boss Stephen K. Bannon, was accused by his ex-wife of roughing her up and threatening her as their marriage was breaking up, according to Politico and the New York Post. Charges were eventually dismissed.
  • Alleged voter fraud is a big issue for both Trump and the Breitbart outfit -- which makes it interesting that Bannon's own Florida voter registration traces to the address of an abandoned house.  
  • Clinton leads Trump by 10 points in a head-to-head matchup in the latest Quinnipiac poll. The poll also found 74% of voters — including 62% of Republicans — believe Trump should release his tax returns.
  • His campaign has disavowed repeated remarks from veterans issues adviser Al Baldasaro that Clinton should be shot for treason, but Trump said Thursday he didn’t know anything about them. “I will tell you he’s a very fine person,” he said.
  • Ethicists see problems with the Clinton foundation’s plan for a transition if Hillary Clinton is elected, including Chelsea Clinton’s continued presence on the board, Politico reports.
  • Clinton raised $19 million during a 72-hour California fundraising swing, CNN says.