In March, Hillary Clinton told a town hall in central Ohio that she was going to put a lot of coal miners “out of business.” Weeks later, she was telling a laid-off coal worker in West Virginia that she had made a “misstatement.”
Now her comments are being used against her in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other parts of coal country and the nation’s manufacturing heartland — just one example of how a local matter can turn into an outsized issue on the campaign trail.
It’s not a problem just for Democrats.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump got tripped up by his varying positions on North Carolina’s law regulating the use of public bathrooms based on gender identity. Mr. Trump initially said people should be able to pick the bathroom they prefer, then hours later said states should be able to set their own rules, as North Carolina’s Republicans had done.
Gay rights groups now say Mr. Trump has squandered a chance to reach out to their community thanks to his evolving bathroom stance. Even if it wins support in conservative communities, it will dent his chances elsewhere, in places where the social conservative causes just don’t play as well.
Missteps on economic or social issues can be inevitable given the frenetic schedule of presidential campaigning and the need to tailor messages to specific audiences in key swing states.
“Running for president means you’re really running nine gubernatorial campaigns at once, and there’s no way given the varied regions of the country that you are going to be perfect-sounding in every region,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
Mr. O’Connell said the gaffe was particularly damaging because it tied back to Mrs. Clinton’s reversals of her positions on trade — an issue central to the campaigns of Mr. Trump and Democratic primary candidate Bernard Sanders — and that the remedy she continues to offer isn’t much comfort for those who are struggling to look for work or keep jobs.