Donald Trump’s dizzying final push for the presidency will land him in at least eight states over the next three days — a scattershot bid to expand his electoral math at the last possible moment.
But the pace of his travel belies the fact that in a handful of his destinations — Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa and Wisconsin — millions have already voted early and opportunities to change the campaign’s fate are dwindling quickly.
As of Saturday afternoon, upward of 40 million people had already cast ballots across the country, according to early vote expert Michael McDonald, who runs the U.S. Elections Project. That includes about 5.5 million in Florida, 2.9 million in North Carolina, 1.6 million in Colorado and 750,000 in Nevada.
Hillary Clinton entered the day with a more modest schedule that takes her through Florida and Pennsylvania and leans heavily on her high-wattage surrogates – President Barack and Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vice President Joe Biden and even NBA star LeBron James and rapper Jay-Z — to juice turnout in the battlegrounds. Her campaign has honed in on states with more limited early voting, from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania to Michigan to ensure maximum impact in the final hours of the election.
In short, the dueling campaign strategies underscore the dynamic of the race. To win, Trump needs a whole lot to go right. And to lose, Clinton needs a whole lot to go wrong.
In that vein, the Clinton campaign added a late show of force in Michigan, long considered a safe state for Democrats but one Trump has eyed for a potential upset. Bill Clinton will be there, in the state capital Lansing on Sunday. Hillary Clinton will be there on Monday in Grand Rapids, while President Obama tries to boost turnout in Detroit.
Republicans say they’re sensing momentum in the largely white, industrial state, where Trump’s message is more of a natural fit.
“I like where we are in Michigan right now,” Sean Spicer, the spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in an interview on “Morning Joe” Friday morning. He said his polling in Michigan showed a “dead even” race.
Trump’s campaign spokesman Jason Miller put it even more succinctly.
“Panic button, pressed,” he tweeted Saturday.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook suggested Saturday the Michigan stop was an attempt to maximize influence in a state with limited early absentee voting options, meaning most of the state has yet to cast ballots.
“Trump is basically going everywhere, over those last few days, and just cramming in every single state,” he said. “We have tried to calibrate our schedule to be in states for the peak times of voting. So Michigan, almost all voting happens on Election Day.”
Trump, on the other hand, will land in Nevada on Sunday where an estimated two-thirds of the electorate has already voted. A surge in early voting in the state’s populous Clark County (home to Las Vegas and a huge Latino population) has heartened Democrats, who now say they expect to outperform polls showing a razor-close race there.
“Donald Trump will be in Reno on Saturday, but the Republicans almost certainly lost Nevada on Friday,” veteran Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston wrote Saturday, after Democrats broke Clark County turnout records the day before.
The Trump campaign projected confidence, however, shrugging off Clinton’s star-studded show of force in the campaign’s closing days.
“We don’t need Jay Z to fill up arenas. We do it the old-fashioned way, folks,” Trump said as he took the stage in Tampa on Saturday. “We fill them up because you love what we’re saying and you wanna make America great again.”
In a late Friday conference call, deputy campaign manager David Bossie told reporters that “each battleground is growing more and more competitive.”
“Historically, Democrats win early voting. Republicans turn out in droves on Election Day,” he said, emphasizing that states where Republicans are trailing shouldn’t be treated as a reflection of the outcome.
In that call, Bossie — who was joined by RNC political director Chris Carr and other RNC officials — described a campaign with momentum and strength heading into the final few days. They noted that in some states, including Florida, they’ll be facing less of an early vote deficit than Mitt Romney did in 2012. And they refused to accept suggestions that high Latino turnout bodes ill for Trump.
Neither Bossie nor his RNC allies made any mention of Trump’s claim that mass voter fraud is occurring across the map, a claim for which he’s provided no evidence.
Clinton spent the early part of her day in South Florida, including a stop at a campaign field office in Miami’s Little Haiti, an area Trump has visited and where his campaign said it hoped to make inroads in the largely Democratic stronghold.
“Haiti has been close to my heart for a very long time,” Clinton said, according to a pool report of the visit. “I want to be a good partner for the people of Haiti.”
After a campaign rally was cut short by rain, Clinton headed to the airport to fly to Philadelphia, where singers Katy Perry and Stevie Wonder will perform and urge voters to get out for Clinton.
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