But it's clear that it was also an effort to draw fire.
Being attacked by Trump may not have worked out particularly well for Jeb Bush or Lindsey Graham, but Hillary Clinton's first electoral victory came after her Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, crossed into her space at a debate and demanded that she sign a campaign financing pledge. Clinton succeeded in portraying Lazio as a bully.
So would Trump rise to the bait after Clinton's criticisms on Saturday night? Would he overreach? Well, of course. He started by questioning her assertion that ISIS is using his rhetoric in propaganda, but Trump is Trump, and Hillary is a woman, so the rhetoric headed in a predictable direction:
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump used a campaign stop in Michigan on Monday to make astonishingly sexist attacks against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.That's from Think Progress, which adds, helpfully:
At one point, Trump told the Grand Rapids crowd that Clinton got “schlonged” by President Obama during their 2008 Democratic primary race.
“Even her race to Obama. She was going to beat Obama. I don’t know who’d be worse. I don’t know. How does it get worse? She was favored to win and she got schlonged. She lost. She lost,” Trump said.
“Schlong” is a well-known reference to a man’s genitals. There are no alternative definitions for the word, according to Merriam-Webster.
In Grand Rapids, that wasn't the only sign of Trump's revulsion at Hillary's girl cooties:
Trump recounted how Clinton was seconds late to the Democratic debate stage on Saturday night following a commercial break. Trump asked the crowd four times where Clinton had gone.
"I know where she went -- it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it," Trump said, screwing up his face, as the crowd laughed and cheered. "No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting."
This is great for Clinton. This is Trump at his worst, the Trump that only his fans like. It's Trump the buffoon rather than the self-styled strongman. Clinton may have lost some luster over the years, but she's still a star, in a way that Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham aren't -- she's not going to seem diminished by this, because she still comes off as an alpha in this world, in a way that Graham and Bush never will, and she's been through too much to be fazed by it.
This makes Trump look infantile to the larger public and, probably, impressive to his idiot voters -- so it's a double victory for Clinton. She has him just where she wants him. She should just keep goading him.