Three days out, Trump and Clinton blitz swing states


Eight states in two days.

As the world looked on agog three days before the US presidential election Saturday, Donald Trump’s campaign was building to a crescendo with a mad scramble to secure a plausible route to the White House.

The populist Republican’s rhetoric remains triumphant, but his carpet bombing of eight swing states in a weekend betrayed doubt, while his Democratic rival Hilary Trump was to hit a relatively restrained five.

“We are just three days from the change you have been waiting for your entire life!” Trump declared in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he and his wife Melania fired up thousands of raucous supporters.

He hit his key themes: promises to tear up free trade agreements, expel undocumented migrants, rebuild an allegedly depleted US military and purge Washington of corruption.

And his fans roared back the same three-word chants: “Build the wall,” “Drain the swamp,” “Lock her up.” But will it be enough to, in the words of his ubiquitous slogan, “Make America great again?”

America’s allies are fearful that a candidate who has threatened to review US treaty alliances is within striking distance of the White House. And foes like Russia and Iran have not hidden their mirth at the turmoil rocking US democracy.

Global markets fear an inexperienced leader with a protectionist bent and an at best offhand attitude to US debt obligations could plunge the United States or even the world economy back into recession.

– Narrow advantage –

The polls are unclear. Clinton, the 69-year-old former secretary of state, senator and first lady, still enjoys a narrow nationwide advantage, a two percentage point lead according to a poll average by tracker RealClearPolitics.

But the election will be won or lost in the US electoral college, and here perhaps a dozen key states are in play. Trump’s camp believes it can pick off enough of them to push him over the 270 electoral vote threshold on November 8.

Trump’s flashy private jet was due in eight of them over the weekend: Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Clinton was headed to Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and New Hampshire.

The 70-year-old property tycoon’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 cast a cloud over her pitch as the competent professional.

But as the race comes down to the wire, she has tried to pierce through the pessimism with a more upbeat message, bringing in heavyweight support from President Barack Obama and global megastars like singer Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay-Z.

Rain put a dampener on her early rally in Pembroke Pines, Florida, but she was determined to build on the high of the previous night’s musical spectacular in Ohio, where Beyonce helped her champion diversity and female empowerment.

“We are seeing tremendous momentum, large numbers of people turning out, breaking records in a lot of places,” she declared, in reference to the early and mail voting permitted in several US states.

“Let’s vote for the future!” she declared through the downpour, urging those who had already cast their ballots to mobilize to get their friends to the polls.

Earlier, at an event in Miami, her supporters had launched into a three-word get out the vote chant of their own: “Knock on doors! Knock on doors!”

Polling and anecdotal evidence suggests that Clinton supporters, and in particular previously underrepresented Latino voters, have come out strongly in Nevada and Florida, pushing towards her camp.

– Impossible breakthrough –

Both Nevada and Florida were won by Clinton’s fellow Democrat Obama in 2012, but had been leaning towards Trump. Respected forecasters FiveThirtyEight’s still give Trump a slight edge in both in polling averages.

But under the group’s “polls plus” forecast — incorporating economic and historical data — now has Clinton as a “relatively safe” winner in Nevada.

A loss in Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, would all but doom Trump’s chances, while his hopes for victory rest on an unlikely but now not impossible breakthrough in one of the Democratic-leaning states in the north, like Pennsylvania.

Clinton’s camp is fully aware of this danger, and has brought out the big guns.

On Monday night, just hours before polls open, she will headline a huge rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Obama and his wife Michelle, her husband former president Bill Clinton and her daughter Chelsea Clinton.

On Monday, Trump’s odyssey takes him back through Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, but he ends the trip in New Hampshire, another Obama state he hopes to flip.

© 2016 AFP

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