Hillary Clinton takes aim at Donald Trump's new running mate Mike Pence, calling him an 'extreme pick'

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Minneapolis Convention Center on July 18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Minneapolis Convention Center on July 18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.PHOTO: AFP

MINNEAPOLIS (WASHINGTON POST/AFP) - Presumptive Democratic United States presidential nominee Hillary Clinton teed off on Monday (July 18) on Republican Donald Trump's new running mate, calling Indiana Governor Mike Pence "one of the most extreme vice-presidential picks in a generation".

Speaking to a gathering of teachers, Mrs Clinton said Mr Pence was "one of the most hostile politicians in America when it comes to education".

"As governor of Indiana, he cut millions from higher education while he was giving huge tax cuts to corporations," Mrs Clinton told a national conference of the American Federation of Teachers. "He turned away millions of federal dollars that could have expanded access to preschool for low-income children and slashed funding for schools that served Indiana's most vulnerable students."

Mrs Clinton's broadside came as the Republicans convened in Cleveland for the start of a four-day convention that will make official Mr Trump's nomination as president and Mr Pence's pick as his running mate. Mrs Clinton is maintaining an active public schedule during the early part of the GOP convention week.

During her address to the teachers organization - which endorsed Mrs Clinton early in the Democratic nominating contest against Senator Bernie Sanders - she also took aim at Mr Trump.

Mrs Clinton said parents have expressed concerns about a "Trump effect" that could lead to more bullying among children. "What do your children think when he calls women pigs or mocks a reporter with a disability?' Mrs Clinton asked, echoing arguments her campaign has advanced in a television ad airing in battleground states.

Earlier, Mrs Clinton called on venerable civil-rights group the NAACP on Monday to defeat Mr Trump in his bid for the White House.

Speaking at the annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the Republican National Convention opened several hundred miles away, Mrs Clinton insisted that Mr Trump was unfit to be president and announced a nationwide drive to register millions of new voters.

Mrs Clinton painted her tycoon opponent as a threat to democracy, lacking a policy platform and whose company refused to rent to African American tenants in the 1970s.

"Donald Trump plays coy with white supremacists. Donald Trump insults Mexican immigrants... Donald Trump demeans women. Donald Trump wants to ban an entire religion from entering our country and Donald Trump loves to talk to the press," she said.

Mr Trump is to be anointed as Republican presidential nominee at the four-day convention in Cleveland by the party once led by Abraham Lincoln, the celebrated US president who abolished slavery in the 19th century.

Mrs Clinton told the NAACP crowd that the Republicans were becoming the party of Mr Trump.

"It is a threat to our democracy and it all adds up to an undeniable conclusion... Donald Trump cannot become president," she said to huge applause and delegates leaping to their feet.

"That's why we've got to work together to get the vote out this fall," she said, announcing a nationwide drive to get three million people registered to vote in the Nov 8 general election.

It is customary for presidential candidates to address the annual convention of the NAACP. Mr Trump was invited to speak at the Cincinnati event, but he declined to do so.

The Trump campaign gave no reason for snubbing the event, just 400km away in the same state.

Ohio is a key battleground state and Mr Trump lost the Republican state primary to Governor John Kasich, but a recent NBC News poll put Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump tied at 39 per cent, with 21 per cent of voters undecided.

The former US secretary of state used much of her speech to call for criminal justice reform, an end to systemic racism and to denounce the killing of police officers as totally unjustified.

"This madness has to stop," she said in reference to the attack Sunday that killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"The next president should make the commitment to fight for the reforms we so desperately need, holding police departments like Ferguson accountable," she said to deafening applause.

The 2014 shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, unleashed widespread protests, some violent, and was among a spate of controversial police shootings of African Americans. The decision not to indict the police officer prompted more protests across the country.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is America's oldest and largest civil rights organization, campaigning to end racial discrimination.