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Battlegrounds in play in US election’s frantic final 48 hours

WASHINGTON (AFP) – 

Donald Trump barnstorms five states Sunday while Hillary Clinton implores her most fervent supporters to get to the polls, in a frenetic final 48-hour dash to the US presidential election.

Last-minute campaign events — including a midnight rally Monday night by Clinton — pepper the landscape in the nation’s most contested states that will ultimately decide whether the United States maintains President Barack Obama’s legacy or steers a more conservative course.

The bruising and unpredictable race that concludes on November 8 has gripped the world and roiled international markets, as Americans decide whether to elect their first female commander in chief or a billionaire real estate tycoon whose political inexperience is seen by some as an asset and others a liability.

Clinton is banking on star power to lock in her narrow poll lead, hosting back-to-back weekend pop concerts with Beyonce and Katy Perry and booking a date with Obama.

For his part, Trump has embarked on a cross-country odyssey through key battlegrounds Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as tightening polls suggest a fluidity in several states at the 11th hour.

He is also planning stops in states like Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania and even Minnesota seeking to poach once-reliably Democratic states.

“We’ve got the momentum,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told ABC Sunday talk show “This Week.”

“We win a state like Michigan and as you know, it’s all over.”

Clinton’s campaign expressed its own confidence, welcoming Trump’s Michigan venture as grasping at straws.

“We’re feeling good, we’re closing strong, but we’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told ABC.

In a sign that Clinton was leaving nothing to chance, the 69-year-old former secretary of state added a stopover Monday in Michigan, a state Obama won handily in 2008 and 2012.

– Narrow Clinton edge –

She visits Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire on Sunday, while Trump has a busier itinerary: Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and then Virginia.

Polls give Clinton a national lead, albeit a narrow one.

NBC/Wall Street Journal’s final poll of the election showed Clinton with a four-point lead Sunday over Trump, 44 percent to 40 percent.

An ABC/Washington Post tracker Sunday put Clinton five points ahead, 48 to 43. Polling averages are closer.

Respected election forecaster Nate Silver, of FiveThirtyEight.com, has Clinton as a two-to-one favorite against Trump, but said her electoral vote lead appears “less solid” than Obama’s did in 2012.

“Rather be in her shoes than Donald Trump, but it’s not a terribly safe position,” Silver told ABC.

At his campaign stops the billionaire Republican remained triumphalist.

“In three days we are going to win the great state of Colorado and we are going to win back the White House,” Trump promised late Saturday in Denver.

Clinton’s late decision to head to Michigan with Obama Monday and to add a midnight rally in North Carolina as Election Day begins raised eyebrows.

Campaign manager Robby Mook dismissed suggestions that Clinton is trying to shore up her crumbling northern firewall.

“Donald Trump has to win all of these battleground races,” he said. “If we win Pennsylvania and Florida, he just has no path.”

Mook pointed to promising signs of strong early voting in key battlegrounds Florida, Nevada and North Carolina among Hispanic Americans, who overwhelmingly favor Clinton in this year’s race.

– ‘Off the charts’ –

According to analysis by experts and a specialized database firm, Catalist, quoted by CNN, Latinos were more than twice as likely to have already voted in Florida at this stage compared to 2012.

In Nevada, local media reported long queues in Hispanic neighborhoods of Las Vegas, and Mook described early voting numbers in the state as “off the charts.”

Such positive figures for Democrats were being offset, however, by a recorded decrease in participation among blacks compared to 2012 in some states.

This could account for Clinton returning to Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday for the fourth time in 17 days, accompanied by basketball legend and native son LeBron James.

Trump’s campaign has been torpedoed but not yet sunk by allegations of sexual assault and the candidate’s own off-color outbursts.

Meanwhile, the long-running saga of Clinton’s inappropriate use of a private email server — fed by announcements and leaks from FBI investigators — continues to taint her pitch as the competent professional.

In the latest twist, emails and FBI memos show that as secretary of state, Clinton routinely entrusted her housekeeper, a Filipino immigrant, to print out sensitive government documents for her, the New York Post reported.

With the race in its final hours, both camps were saturating the airwaves with new, closing-argument television ads.

“The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election,” Trump says in his new, two-minute spot.

“The only people brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment is you, the American people.”

© 2016 AFP