Clinton calls Trump too unsteady to be president

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Hillary Clinton's evolving impressions of Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) - Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton pivoted to a general election matchup against Republican candidate Donald Trump on Thursday, saying he is dangerously unpredictable and not qualified to be president.

Confident that she is finally close to defeating U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic nomination, Clinton turned heavy fire on Trump, who has been running about even with her in national polls of voters looking ahead to the Nov. 8 presidential election.

SEE ALSO: Former Republican senator apologizes for Donald Trump on his deathbed

On the Republican side, Trump promoted top aide Paul Manafort to serve as campaign manager and chief strategist, the Trump campaign said. Corey Lewandowski, the trusted Trump aide who has had the title of campaign manager, will continue overseeing day-to-day operations, the campaign said.

In a CNN interview, Clinton used the example of the apparent downing of an EgyptAir plane from Paris to Cairo to say that Trump would lack the skills to bring together U.S. allies to respond to global threats.

"I know hard this job is and I know we need steadiness, as well as strength and smarts in it, and I have concluded that he is not qualified to be president of the United States," Clinton said.

Trump, the Republicans' presumptive presidential nominee, has been intensifying his criticism of Clinton by lobbing personal attacks at her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, said she would resolutely refuse to respond to Trump's goading. "He can say whatever he wants," she said.

RELATED: See Hillary Clinton's potential running mates

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Hillary Clinton potential running mates, VPs
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Clinton calls Trump too unsteady to be president

Tim Kaine

The junior Democratic Senator from the swing state of Virginia could be a strategic selection for Hillary. Kaine also served as the governor of Virginia from 2006- 2010.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Warren

The current U.S. Senator from Massachusetts is popular among progressive Democrats, and some even tried to draft her to run for president herself in 2016. 

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sherrod Brown

Insiders believe that the senior U.S. Senator from Ohio could help Clinton increase her popularity with working-class voters, a group she has yet to win in a big way so far in primary contests.  

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cory Booker

The U.S. Senator from New Jersey is both youthful and charismatic and would add racial diversity to a Clinton ticket. 

(Photo by KK Ottesen for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tom Perez

The current U.S. Secretary of Labor is considered a sleeper pick by many Democrats because he is not well known outside of D.C., but some believe his strength and popularity among union workers and other progressive groups could be an asset to Clinton's ticket. 

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Julian Castro

The former mayor of San Antonio and current U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has been rumored as a possible running mate for Clinton for months, but in May he said in an interview that the Clinton campaign hasn't talked to him about the role.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Amy Klobuchar

Insiders confirmed that Clinton is definitely considering a woman as her vice presidential pick, and as U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Klobuchar has a seat Democrats would likely maintain. She's also been described as "by far" the most popular politician in her state. 

 (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Bernie Sanders

The Independent from Vermont has become Hillary Clinton's primary rival for the Democratic nomination, garnering a surprising amount of support. Bringing Sanders onto the ticket could help to unite both sets of supporters who have been split in Democratic primaries.

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Martin O'Malley

A former 2016 rival of Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley could help bring some executive experience, along with a slight youthful boost to the ticket.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tom Vilsack

The Secretary of Agriculture since 2009, Tom Vilsack also served as the governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. Vilsack could bring some governing experience along with swing state influence.  

(BELGIUM - Tags: AGRICULTURE POLITICS BUSINESS)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers his annual State of the State address to lawmakers and guests, inside the state legislature, in Denver, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Hickenlooper called upon Republicans and Democrats to return to an era of civility and compromise in his address to the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-led House. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Evan Bayh 

Evan Bayh could bring a more right leaning brand of politics to the ticket. Bayh previously served as the junior U.S. Senator from Indiana from 1999 to 2011, and also as the 46th Governor of Indiana from 1989 to 1997.  

Joe Biden

While the likelihood of him agreeing to take on the veep job again might be low, Biden's popularity among Democrats would likely boost Clinton's chances. 

(Photo credit MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Clinton

Hillary's husband is technically allowed to serve in the job, and some legal experts even think he'd be able to take office if necessary. Unfortunately for the diehard Clinton supporters, a Clinton-Clinton ticket will probably be a dream that never comes true. 

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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But she said the EgyptAir crash reinforces the need for American leadership and that Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States has sent the wrong signal to countries that Washington will need to work with in the fight against Islamic militants.

"He says a lot of things that are provocative, that actually make the important task of building this coalition, bringing everybody to the table and defeating terrorism more difficult," she said. "It sends a message of disrespect and it sends a message that makes the situation inside those countries more difficult."

Trump stepped up efforts to rally Republican loyalists behind his campaign after winning a divisive primary fight that left the party ruptured.

On Capitol Hill, Manafort and other Trump aides met with conservatives in the House of Representatives who are members of the Freedom Caucus group and canvassed them for policy ideas.

"Manafort was reaching out for ideas" on policy, and several Freedom Caucus members made suggestions, said Republican Representative Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee.

"It went very well, it was encouraging. I think the Trump team recognizes the relevance of the Freedom Caucus, and the influence they have. I think actually, despite some early skepticism by some members, I think the (Freedom Caucus) board received Manafort and his representation of Trump very well," DesJarlais said.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who met Trump a week ago to try to resolve differences over their approaches to key issues, said he thought a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees, a group of conservative jurists announced by Trump on Wednesday, "was a very good step in the right direction."

Ryan told reporters that "our teams are meeting" to talk policy, and "we're making progress, but that's all I've got to say at this point."

The highest-ranking House Republican woman, Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, said she had cast an absentee ballot for Trump in Washington state's primary next week, leaving Ryan as the only top Republican in Congress who has not backed Trump. (Additional reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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