Donald Trump embraced the role of political underdog Wednesday, imploring his supporters to “pretend we’re down” despite a national poll that shows him neck and neck with Hillary Clinton and others that put him ahead in key battleground states.
Trump, whose turbulent relationship with the polls has swayed from obsession to downright dismissal, told a Miami crowd “the polls all say we’re gonna win Florida” but cautioned his supporters not to believe them.
“Don’t believe it. Get out there and vote,” he said, speaking at his first rally of the day on the heels of a fresh batch of polls released Wednesday morning and afternoon. “Pretend we’re slightly behind. You gotta get out. We don’t wanna blow this.”
The candidates are deadlocked in the first ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll conducted entirely after FBI Director James Comey informed Congress about additional evidence related to Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, though the resurgence of Clinton’s email scandal seems to have had little impact overall on the race.
The poll, which includes interviews conducted last Friday through Monday, shows Clinton and Trump both at 46 percent. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is at 3 percent, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 2 percent, and another 3 percent are undecided.
The race has tightened significantly since the tracking poll began last month. In the first four nights of the poll — immediately following the final televised debate between the two major-party candidates — Clinton had a 12-point lead over Trump, 50 percent to 38 percent.
But that narrowed almost immediately, and, in the following four nights, Oct. 24-27, Clinton’s lead was down to just 2 points.
The good news for Clinton is the race has not changed significantly since Comey’s letter to Congress on Friday brought her email scandal back into the news. Clinton lost just 1 percentage point between the four-day period immediately preceding Comey’s letter and the following four-day period, while Trump gained a point.
The polls have yet to shift as a result of the latest email bombshell, but it has certainly put Trump’s campaign back on the offensive for the first time in weeks.
“Did you hear about this little event? The FBI reopening the investigation,” Trump said during his Miami rally, going a step further than Comey and other law enforcement officials, who have conspicuously avoided the term “reopening.” “They’re reopening the investigation into Crooked Hillary Clinton.”
“The polls have just come up. We’re way up in Florida,” he announced, though a CNN poll showing Clinton ahead there had been released just minutes before Trump’s event. “I shouldn’t say that because I want you to go vote. OK, ready? We’re gonna pretend we’re down. We’re down. Pretend, right? We’ll pretend we’re down.”
“Nah, we gotta win. We gotta win big,” he continued. “We gotta beat her. Gotta beat her. We’re up in Ohio. We’re up in Iowa. We’re up in North Carolina. I think we’re doing great in Pennsylvania, from what I hear. Folks, you’re gonna be so proud.”
But Trump’s assessment wasn’t really on the mark. According to the CNN/ORC polls out Wednesday, Clinton leads in Pennsylvania and maintains a narrow advantage in Florida (within the survey’s margin of error), two states that award a combined 49 electoral votes. While she trails Trump by 6 in Nevada and 5 in Arizona, that combined prize is much smaller — 17 electoral votes.
Another batch of polls, released by Quinnipiac University ahead of Trump’s second rally of the day, in Orlando, showed him winning Ohio by 5 and within the margin of error in Florida and North Carolina but trailing by 5 in Pennsylvania. If those four polls hold through Election Day, Trump would gain Ohio’s 18 electoral votes but miss out on 15 from North Carolina, 20 from Pennsylvania and a critical 29 from Florida.
But in the wake of a surprising comeback in the national ABC News/Washington Post poll, the Manhattan billionaire’s team spent Wednesday morning messaging that the FBI’s investigation of additional evidence in its case against Clinton is proof that she will ultimately be charged with a crime.
Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning that “Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 e-mails AFTER they were subpoenaed by the United States Congress. Guilty – cannot run. Rigged system!”
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a close adviser to the Trump campaign who was once a dark-horse candidate to be the GOP nominee’s running mate, built on that message in a Wednesday interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” telling the three-host panel that Clinton’s umbrella of controversy constitutes “an incredible level of scandal, criminal behavior.”
“This just shows the continuation of the incredible dark cloud of scandals that, you know, sits over the Clinton machine. This is — I described this as the largest organized crime investigation probably in decades that the FBI is having to go through,” Flynn said, highlighting not just the controversy involving the Democratic nominee’s emails but also the investigation into former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is accused of exchanging sexually explicit text messages with an underage girl. Weiner is the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Despite Flynn’s claims, the FBI’s probe into Clinton is focused on whether she or her aides mishandled classified materials.
“You’re talking about, you know, the Anthony Weiner pedophilia scandal, a national security investigation against Hillary Clinton who is four, five days now away from potentially being a president,” he said. “Give me a break. When is enough going to be enough for these people?”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been no friend to the Trump campaign since the release of a 2005 recording on which the former reality TV star can be heard describing sexually predatory behavior in vulgar terms, sounded a similar note to Flynn and Trump in another Wednesday morning interview, this one with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“This is what life is like with the Clintons. There’s always a scandal, there’s always an investigation,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “They work the system to help Clinton Inc., not the rest of us. This is a consistent pattern of behavior. Why would we want to repeat this?”
Congress, writ large, has also been eager to jump on the Clinton-as-criminal message in recent days, and, if elected, the former secretary of state is likely to face investigations from Capitol Hill from Day One of her administration, if not earlier. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) called Clinton a “target-rich environment” for investigation in an interview with The Washington Post because “even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”
With her candidate on the stump not just in swing states but looking to expand the map with rallies in Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, bragged that the businessman’s momentum is now dictating travel plans to the Clinton campaign. She said Trump’s recent burst forced Clinton to plan a campaign stop in Michigan this weekend and vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine to stop in Wisconsin on Tuesday, writing on Twitter that the Democratic ticket was playing “follow the leader.”
According to the ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, Clinton and Trump are now winning equal percentages of Democrats and Republicans, respectively. Both capture 85 percent of voters who identify with their respective parties, including independents who lean toward one party over the other.
While the race hasn’t significantly tightened as a result of Comey’s letter, voters’ expectations have been altered. The percentage of likely voters who expect Clinton to win has declined to 55 percent, down from 60 percent immediately before the letter. That has not led to a significant uptick in the percentage of voters who think Trump will win, 31 percent, up from 29 percent before the letter.
And Clinton has taken a significant hit on honesty in the wake of the most recent revelations. Asked which candidate is more honest and trustworthy, 46 percent pick Trump and 38 percent say Clinton.
The last time ABC News and The Washington Post asked this survey question, in early September, voters were evenly split, with the two candidates even at 45 percent on the question of who is more honest. While Clinton has slid 7 points since then, Trump has gained little.
Perhaps trying to combat her sliding honesty numbers, Clinton’s team has begun working to put the campaign on more familiar footing for the Democrats. Looking to refocus the race on Trump’s checkered history with women, the former secretary of state was introduced at a Florida rally on Tuesday by former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, the woman whom Trump derided as “Miss Piggy,” because of her weight gain after winning the pageant, and “Miss Housekeeping” because of her Hispanic heritage.
Machado’s presence on the campaign trail was amplified by a new ad released by Clinton’s team, titled “What He Believes.” The spot features clips of Trump describing women and his treatment of them, punctuated by text that reads, “This is Donald Trump. Anyone who believes, says, does what he does is unfit to be president.”
And President Barack Obama got in on the act as well Wednesday morning, looking to shore up support for Clinton in the African-American community. Turnout among black voters has been down thus far in key swing states like North Carolina, where, according to The New York Times, 16 percent fewer African-Americans have voted this year than had at this point in 2012. The number of black voters casting a ballot early in Florida is down 10 percent over four years ago, that same Times story reported.
“I’m going to be honest with you right now,” Obama said on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” a syndicated radio program that caters to a largely black audience. “The African-American vote right now is not as solid as it needs to be.”
“And I know that a lot of people in the barbershops and the beauty salons and, you know, in the neighborhoods, who are saying to themselves, ‘Well, you know, we love Barack. We especially love Michelle. And so it was exciting and now we’re not excited as much,’” he continued. “You know what? I need everybody to understand that everything we’ve done is dependent on me being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things that I believe in.”
The ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll surveyed 1,182 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
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