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Clinton tries to draw attention during the GOP convention with speeches to teachers and NAACP

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally the University of Cincinnati on Monday.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally the University of Cincinnati on Monday.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

As Republicans gaveled in their national convention in Cleveland on Monday, Hillary Clinton wasted no time launching counter-programming, taunting Donald Trump and offering a vision for confronting the recent spate of violence in American communities that is starkly different than his.

Taking the stage at an NAACP conference in Cincinnati, Clinton mocked Trump for declining to join her at the event. She described him as a bigot, a sexist and a xenophobe, among other things, before launching into an anecdote about the first time her publicity friendly opponent spoke to the New York Times.

It was in 1973, she said, when his family businesses was accused by the government of discriminating against black people seeking to rent apartments.

“We have heard a lot of troubling things from Donald Trump,” she said. “But that one is shocking.”

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The attacks from Clinton, which were to continue later in the day during an address before the American Federation of Teachers in Minnesota, were the apex Monday of a large-scale disruption effort by the Democrats. Following a time-honored tradition during conventions, the Clinton campaign and its allies are working furiously to get voters to question everything they are seeing in Cleveland.

They attacked on multiple fronts. The lead pro-Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA, rolled out an anti-Trump ad that will play on screens inside the taxi cabs of Cleveland an estimated 28,000 times. The PAC is also spending heavily to treat social media users who log in at the convention site to images of some of the more notorious figures who have praised Trump, including former Ku Klux Klan head David Duke and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, alongside the words “He’s with Trump.”

Back at Clinton campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, they created an expertly produced reprisal of an ad Democrats ran back in 1964, when Barry Goldwater was the GOP nominee. The current installment is a web ad titled “Confessions of a Republican II.” In it, a self-identified Republican actor who as a young man appeared in the original ad against Goldwater, returns to say Trump does not represent his values, and frankly, scares him. The Clinton campaign also invited its supporters to sign an open letter to Donald Trump that lists the many reasons it finds him detestable. By late afternoon, it had 20,000 electronic signatures.

Clinton also announced at the NAACP convention a registration drive intended to bring 3 million new voters to the polls.

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Her speech to the NAACP came as both she and Trump find their campaigns overshadowed by the shooting deaths of three police officers in Baton Rouge over the weekend, the latest incident in an epidemic of violence that has claimed as victims several police officers, as well as African American civilians who were killed by police.

As Trump positions himself as the “law and order” candidate whose answer to the violence is cracking down on lawbreakers with little patience for movements such as Black Lives Matter, Clinton warns that the problems can only be solved by rooting out racism from the criminal justice system. She is also pushing for new gun-control laws.

The conflicting approaches reflect the different groups of voters each candidate is targeting. Trump won the Republican nomination in large part because of his appeal to disgruntled whites. His message continues to target white voters, and particularly white male voters, even as they have shrunk considerably as a share of the overall electorate. He is looking to his anti-free trade message to nonetheless increase the number of whites who vote Republican by attracting Democratic-leaning blue collar voters.

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Clinton is seeking to rebuild the diverse coalition of voters that twice propelled President Obama to victory. Even amid the shootings of police that have raised concerns about personal safety among Americans, Clinton is not backing away from railing against the different ways whites and minorities are treated by police, the deaths of black men in police custody and the surge in the country’s prison population.

“Let’s admit it,” Clinton said. “There is clear evidence that African Americans are disproportionately killed in police incidents compared to any other group…. Something is profoundly wrong. We can’t ignore that. We can’t wish it away. We have to make it right.”

Clinton used her platform before the NAACP to tear into Trump’s record on issues of equality, accusing him of demeaning the first African American president by accusing him of not being an American citizen, playing “coy with white supremacists”, showing disrespect for women, and wanting to “ban an entire religion” with his plan to block Muslims from entering the country.

“At times like these, we need a president who can help pull us together, not split us apart,” Clinton said. ”I will work every single day to do just that. The Republican nominee for president will do the exact opposite. He might say otherwise if he were here, but of course he declined your invitation. So all we can go on is what he has said and done in the past.”

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evan.halper@latimes.com

Follow me: @evanhalper

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