PHILADELPHIA —Hillary Clinton spent Monday on the precipice of history, or about to be dealt a defeat that will not only be the most devastating rejection of her long career, but also the most shocking.
In the final 24 hours of a 575-day slog of a campaign, Clinton’s campaign is confident, as most national polls gave Clinton a slight edge over Donald Trump. A Bloomberg poll showed her leading by three percentage points, a Fox News poll put her up four.
twSome Clinton operatives were feeling confident enough on Monday to casually debate, among themselves, whether or not Trump was likely to make the traditional concession phone call to Clinton on Tuesday night. (They were split.)
It’s not that they’re expecting a nation-wide romp.
Handicapping the race, Clinton aides and allies expressed the most uncertainty about North Carolina, the state with 15 electoral votes that President Obama won in 2008 by a slim margin and lost four years later in another close race. Clinton officials predicted North Carolina — where Clinton and both Obamas have campaigned aggressively — would come down to “a coin flip.”
They said they were also prepared for Clinton to lose Iowa and Ohio, battleground states with large rural populations of the white non-college educated voters that make up Trump’s base.
And some did not expect to ultimately flip Arizona, a red state where Clinton made a late-stage aggressive play, hoping to get a boost out of the state’s growing Hispanic population that has handily rejected Trump. Clinton poured into Arizona $2 million in advertisements, and headlined one of her biggest rallies of the campaign in Tempe last week. If she wins it, she would become the first Democrat in 20 years to turn the red state blue.
But even if Trump wins all those battleground states and the rest of the solidly red ones, Trump would still be more than 50 points short of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the race.
And Clinton’s campaign is feeling solid about a host of other paths that would put their candidate over the top.
Clinton’s campaign was channeling confidence about victories in every other battleground — including Florida, whose 29 delegates would put Clinton over the 270 threshold, and where they expected large turnout among Latino voters to give Clinton a one- to two-point edge. In Florida, early voting surged past 6 million votes, up 35 percent from 2012.
And more than 1 million Latino voters cast their ballots early — double the number from four years ago. The campaign said that the final days of early vote also showed a surge in their key demographics of millennials, African-Americans and Hispanics.
Internal polling also showed them leading in Michigan, where Clinton and Obama both campaigned Monday, ahead of their joint rally at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, with Bruce Springsteen.
It was a cautiously optimistic end to a hard fought race.
“I will never give birth, but I feel like I’ve been in labor for three years and crowning for three months,” said one Clinton adviser who has been organizing the ground game in a critical battleground state.
For her part, Clinton appeared energetic and happy on the trail, leaning heavily on the story of her mother, Dorothy Rodham, as she closed out her campaign making the positive case for her candidacy. She also reminded voters to consider the grave responsibility they are turning over to one of the candidates on Tuesday, a final reminder of the contrast with her opponent that has been the greatest strength for her on the trail.
“We are already great,” Clinton said, borrowing Trump’s slogan, “but we can be greater, and we will be greater.” And she was already looking beyond Tuesday, talking about how she planned to heal the divided country. “We need more of two things right now: we need more love and kindness in America,” she said.
On one level, Monday was like every other day on the campaign trail for the former Secretary of State. She woke up in Chappaqua and headed for the airport in her Scooby van. Campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she lingered on the rope line, as she always does, after her speeches posing for selfies. But the crowds were louder and more emotional.
And Clinton appeared at least somewhat cognizant of the weight of the moment on her final day on the trail after a taxing campaign. Pulling up to the tarmac of the Westchester airport for the last day aboard the “Stronger Together” plane, Clinton was FaceTiming with her granddaughter, Charlotte.
“You see the big plane?” she cooed into her iPhone, panning her camera across the “H” emblazoned wing, and even pointing it back at the photographers whose lenses are always trained on her, documenting for her family the final moments of the historic race.
If things go Clinton’s way on Tuesday night, this was her last full day of her life as she knows it, as a semi-private citizen of Chappaqua, New York. As President-elect, she will be monitored by a fully protective pool of reporters that she has refused for most of the general election. She will begin receiving regular security briefings.
And her email use will be strictly curtailed and monitored, for national security purposes (perhaps a relief to a campaign that has been battered hardest by private servers and hacks).
With a last minute reprieve from FBI Director James Comey and a slew of A-list celebrities and politicians giving Clinton a final boost in the states with limited early voting, where the majority of voters go to the polls on Tuesday, Clinton and her aides were buoyed over the weekend.
“We’re just going to work until the last vote is counted,” Clinton told reporters as she boarded her plane for a four-state barnstorm that included stops in Pittsburgh, Grand Rapids, Philadelphia (with Bill Clinton, the Obamas and Bruce Springsteen) and a final midnight rally in Raleigh with Jon Bon Jovi and Lady Gaga.
“We’re on a good track,” she said. Speaking to a 2,000-person outdoor crowd in Pittsburgh, Clinton told supporters that “if the lines are long tomorrow, please wait.”
On the road, her aides appeared to be more serene than anxious. Longtime Clinton aide Phillippe Reines borrowed campaign videographer Julie Zuckerbrot’s equipment to film scenes on the tarmac in Pittsburgh. During one rally, he sat outside to babysit the staff vans in order to give the drivers an opportunity to witness Clinton’s speech.
On the plane, traveling press secretary Nick Merrill commandeered the intercom as the plane landed. “Capricia Marshall, please come to the principal’s office,” he joked, referring to Clinton’s longtime confidante and close friend, who was also on board.
At headquarters, one aide reported that the staffers were listening to “Fight Song on repeat” and gorging on pizza. Clinton also channeled that confidence on stage.
“I would not have worked for 18 months, traveled across the country… if I did not believe in all my heart that we can do this, right?” Clinton said in Pittsburgh. “We can do this. We don’t have to accept a dark and divisive vision for America. Tomorrow you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America.”
“I know how hard times are, and as I have said, you can take it to the bank, I will not forget you, and I will do everything I can.”
Powered by WPeMatico