As the final hours of this unforgettable presidential campaign tick away, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump crisscrossed battleground states to motivate their supporters to cast ballots before it’s too late.
Clinton, who has the benefit of a built-in electoral advantage and an army of popular surrogates and stars at her side in the campaign’s final days, is attempting to close out her campaign with an optimistic message and to block Trump’s path by locking up two blue states: Michigan, where her opponent has narrowed the gap, and Pennsylvania, a state where polls show her significantly ahead but where there is no early voting.
Tonight, she will rally voters in Philadelphia alongside President Obama and the First Lady and Vice President Joe Biden, not to mention Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, while her campaign airs a two-minute national television ad featuring Clinton speaking direct to the camera about her vision for a “stronger, fairer America.”
She was already hitting that positive note in Pittsburgh Monday morning, telling voters that “anger is not a plan” and promising to be “a president for all Americans.” At her second event, an afternoon rally in the conservative suburb of Allendale, Mich., Clinton appealed directly to soft Republican swing voters, emphasizing her early days working in support of Gerald Ford, praising “courageous” Republicans who have disavowed Trump and urging voters to consider what’s at stake in picking the country’s next president.
“The awesome responsibility that is housed in one person is something I want you to think about between now and the time you vote,” she said. “Because I will pledge to you that I will exercise the greatest care and responsibility and all of the powers invested in the powers of the presidency.”
After her Philadelphia event, Clinton will end her campaign tonight with a midnight rally in North Carolina, a critical swing state where her campaign is optimistic about notching a win that could effectively put her over the top.
Trump, a lightning rod to the end, is carrying his closing argument on his own, campaigning at a breakneck pace, flying from Florida to North Carolina to Pennsylvania to Michigan and facing a stark political reality—that he likely needs all four of those states, none of which he is leading currently, to win the White House Tuesday night.
And his message is a far cry from Clinton’s sunny platitudes, an effort to harness the same voter anger and frustration with the political establishment that has propelled him here, to a point where his winning the White House could just be a day away.
Despite Sunday’s news that there would be no change to the FBI’s recommendation not to charge Clinton for criminal wrongdoing related to the investigation into her private email server, Trump isn’t backing away from the charge he’s trumpeted for more than a week. Now asking voters to “deliver justice at the ballot box,” he continued to assert that Clinton is “guilty.”
At the county fairgrounds in Sarasota, Fla. Monday morning as two elephants roamed nearby, Trump continued to express disbelief at the FBI’s decision. “Nobody in this room can believe what’s going on with the FBI and with the Department of Justice,” he said.
Even as his top advisers have mostly succeeded in recent days at keeping Trump on message, the candidate’s off-key ad-libs and freewheeling style continued to distract from the more focused, scripted closing argument aides have prepared and loaded into the teleprompter, one that lashes the “failed political establishment.” Not only did Trump get distracted by a rubber mask of his own visage in the crowd—before long, he was holding the mask up next to his own face on the stage, an image that was immediately circulating over Twitter and the cable TV airwaves—he continued to attack Jay Z and Beyonce at the same time that he is supposedly courting African-American voters.
Referring to their performance alongside Clinton at a concert in Cleveland over the weekend, Trump seemed unsure how to characterize it. “Was it talking or singing?” Trump said. “I don’t know but the language was so bad.”
Trump, whose own colorful language has been a staple of his campaign, also expressed his belief that he is over-performing with black voters. “African-Americans aren’t turning out and when they do, a lot of them are voting for Trump,” he said, offering no evidence. “When they do turn out I’m getting so many more than anticipated.”
President Obama, whose appearance in Florida last week appeared to pay dividends with an almost immediate spike in African-American voter turnout, was dispatched Monday morning to Michigan, where Trump has closed the gap in the last week at least enough to scare Clinton’s campaign.
Speaking in Ann Arbor, Obama savaged Trump in a way Clinton is no longer doing herself—she didn’t even mention her opponent by name at her first rally of the day in Pittsburgh. Localizing his pitch for Clinton, Obama reminded voters of how his administration’s “tough decisions” early on helped to “revitalize” the state’s auto industry, even citing Trump’s own Romney-esque statement to “let it go bankrupt.”
“Donald Trump didn’t stop there,” Obama continued. “He actually suggested shipping Michigan’s auto jobs to other states that don’t have unions so they could pay their workers less.”
Obama, claiming he’s “earned some credibility here” based on his administration’s support of the auto industry, argued that Trump is “not somebody who cares about working people. This is not somebody who’s a champion for working families.
“Don’t fall for the okey doke,” Obama told voters. “Don’t be bamboozled.”
Deploying Clinton and Obama to Michigan on the final day of campaigning is a sure sign that Democrats are newly nervous about a state they long thought to be in the bag. And Trump himself will end his day there with a midnight rally in Grand Rapids that will be his final rally of this long campaign. But polls continue to show Clinton with a five-point edge in the state, an indication that even Trump’s most opportune path to the presidency is a steep one.
Minnesota, where he stumped on Sunday, also shows Clinton with a six-point advantage in an average of polls. That’s down significantly from her double-digit lead there in September, but still a lot for Trump and running-mate Mike Pence, who began his Monday rallying a few hundred supporters in Duluth, to overcome.
“I know with Minnesota’s help we’re going to make Donald Trump the next president of the United States of America,” Pence told the crowd in a chilly airport hangar.
In a state that hasn’t gone red since Richard Nixon’s electoral landslide in 1972, the GOP vice presidential nominee stuck to the message he’s been hammering for months, hitting Clinton for “fast and loose ethics” and speaking at length about Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State.
“In one day the American people can put an end to decades of Clinton corruption,” Pence said. “You here in Minnesota can close the history books on the Clintons once and for all.”
Annie Karni, Ben Schreckinger and Matthew Nussbaum contributed to this report.
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