DETROIT (AP) — Hillary Clinton said Friday the nation needs a "new bargain" for the economy and called upon all the presidential candidates to offer a "credible strategy" for raising wages as her primary race against rival Bernie Sanders shifts to a series of Rust Belt contests.
Clinton's address at Detroit Manufacturing Systems, a manufacturer of instrument panels for cars, offered her the opportunity to contrast herself with both Sanders and business mogul Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate.
"Anyone running for president owes it to you to come up with real ideas, not an ideology, not an old set of talking points but a credible strategy designed for the world we live in now," Clinton said in remarks pointed at both rivals.
Speaking Friday night at a rally in western Michigan, Sanders repeated his charge that Clinton has backed trade deals that have had "disastrous" consequences for workers. He has sought to diminish her standing by implying she waffled when she initially called the Trans Pacific Partnership trade as the "gold standard" as secretary of state but later opposed the deal.
"It's not just the loss of jobs that resulted from these trade agreements," Sanders said. "Right now in manufacturing plants in Michigan, many of the new jobs that are being created are paying substantially less than the older jobs because companies are saying, 'If you do not accept these low wages, we are going to move to China or Mexico.'"
In her address, Clinton called for a so-called "clawback" of tax benefits for companies that ship jobs overseas, rescinding tax relief and other incentives intended to encourage domestic investment. Revenue raised by this "clawback" would then be used to support investment in the United States.
Clinton made clear to differentiate with Republicans, saying there were "so many insults" at Thursday night's Republican debate "it was hard to keep track." She said the "biggest insult of all was to the American people" and the economy was an "afterthought" during the Republican debate.
The Republican National Committee accused Clinton of promising a "trillion-dollar tax hike" and "four more years of Obamanomics."
The Democrats' focus on manufacturing jobs and trade policy is forming the backdrop for Michigan's primary and contests on March 15 in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri amid global economic weakness.
President Barack Obama's decision to rescue the U.S. automakers still reverberates through the nation's manufacturing belt, but many communities have struggled with the shift of factory jobs to Mexico and Asia.
Trailing Clinton in the chase for delegates, Sanders has ratcheted up his criticism of her past support for trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and normalizing trade relations with China. Both were signed by President Bill Clinton while she was first lady.
Including superdelegates, Clinton now leads Sanders 1,066 to 432, according to the latest Associated Press delegate count. It takes 2,383 delegates to win.
Clinton said on trade the next president would need "judgment and experience" and she would not support any deal unless it creates good jobs, raises wages and protects the nation's security.
She also sought to undercut Sanders' credentials on the economy, accusing the senator of failing to produce a detailed plan to promote manufacturing and pointed to his past opposition to the federal Export-Import Bank, which makes and guarantees loans to help foreign customers buy U.S. goods.
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Allendale, Michigan, contributed to this report.