The decision by British voters to leave the European Union sent shudders through European capitals and shock waves through the financial markets. It also sent the U.S. presidential campaigns scrambling to respond.
Both campaigns initially released brief statements. Donald Trump’s arrived in in-boxes early Friday morning:
The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy. A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.
Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.
A few hours later, Hillary Clinton’s campaign emailed a similarly brief reaction:
We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made. Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America. We also have to make clear America’s steadfast commitment to the special relationship with Britain and the transatlantic alliance with Europe. This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans’ pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests. It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down.
The statement refers to “steady, experienced leadership.” Her campaign has been driving hard the message that she is a sober, experienced former secretary of state while Trump is “rash and reckless.”
Trump’s comments upon arriving at his remodeled Turnberry golf course in Scotland provided Clinton another opportunity to underscore her pitch.
He noted “great similarities” between the British vote and his campaign:
People want to see borders. They don’t necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don’t know who they are and where they come from.
But he also brushed aside the notion he should be seeking the advice of his campaign’s foreign policy experts:
I’ve actually been in touch. And some, by the way, don’t like it, and some do like it. You know, they’re advisers, they’re like everybody else. They probably know less, every one of these advisers.
Asked about Britain’s plummeting currency in a part of the nation which had voted overwhelmingly to stay in the E.U., Trump noted a money-making opportunity:
You know, when the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly. And the pound has gone down, and let’s see what the impact of that has, but I think places like Scotland and England and different places, in Great Britain, I think you’re going to see a lot of — a lot of activity.
The pound got high, and people weren’t able to do maybe what they wanted to do, but for traveling and for other things, you know, I think it could very well turn out to be a positive.
Clinton’s response? A fusillade: a morning press call with senior policy advisers; a collection of critical Republican responses to Trump’s turn at Turnberry; and less than 24 hours after Trump’s comments, the Clinton campaign had produced and pushed out a video:
The Clinton campaign, with hundreds of staffers and millions in the bank, is well-poised to create just this kind of rapid-response video, primed for social media and cable news chatter. The Trump campaign — “leaner, meaner” in the words of former manager Corey Lewandowski — is only now beginning to build the kind of infrastructure that could allow it to keep pace.