Pittsburgh, United States | AFP |
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battled for votes on a frenzied final day of campaigning Monday, telling Americans the country’s fate rides on who they choose as the next US president.
Clinton, the front-running Democrat, aimed to nail down her narrow lead with stops in three battleground states, as President Barack Obama covered for her elsewhere before they join up at a star-studded grand finale in Philadelphia.
“The choice in this election could not be clearer,” Clinton said at a rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “It really is between division or unity. Between strong and steady leadership or a loose cannon.”
Trump, the billionaire Republican nominee, set out from must-win Florida on a five state swing, the culmination of a dramatic run for the presidency as a right-wing nationalist vowing radical change in America’s relationship with the world.
“I want the entire corrupt Washington establishment to hear the words we are all about to say: when we win tomorrow, we are going to drain the swamp,” he told cheering supporters in Sarasota, Florida.
Chants of “Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp” rose from the crowd.
Despite his outward confidence, the 70-year-old mogul needs to break through a wall of Democratic support in industrial northern states like Michigan to win.
Trump, Clinton and Obama all focused precious final efforts campaigning there and other key states.
As she boarded her campaign plane in White Plains, New York for the day’s first rally in Pennsylvania, Clinton admitted that bringing the country together again after one of the bitterest US elections ever will require “some work.”
“I really do want to be the president for everybody — people who vote for me, people who vote against me,” she told reporters.
In a video message set to air during two prime-time television shows reaching millions of viewers, Clinton warns, “Our core values are being tested in this election.”
“Is America dark and divisive, or hopeful and inclusive?” she asks as a piano trills in the background.
Two to one
On the eve of the vote, Clinton held a widening but still close 3.2 percent lead over Trump in a four way race including two fringe candidates, according to a RealClearPolitics average of national polls.
US media predicted substantial to big wins for the 69-year-old Democrat when electoral votes are counted. Influential election forecaster FiveThirtyEight gave her a two to one chance of winning the 270 votes needed to claim the White House.
Under the cloud of an FBI investigation, Clinton got good news Sunday when James Comey, the agency’s director, cleared her again of criminal wrongdoing in her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
But the damage may already have been done.
Her popularity had dipped and opinion polls tightened after Comey’s campaign bombshell decision eight days ago to reopen the investigation.
It gave Trump a windfall opportunity to recover ground lost while battling accusations of sexual assault.
From Sarasota, Trump was headed to Raleigh, North Carolina; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Grand Rapids, Michigan for a flurry of back-to-back rallies.
Besides Obama and First Lady Michelle, Clinton will draw on the star power of rockers Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi at their final big rally in Philadelphia Monday night.
“I ask you to do for Hillary what you did for me,” Obama said at a rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the first of three he is holding for Clinton on the eve of the vote.
“You have the chance to reject a coarse, divisive, mean-spirited politics that would take us backwards,” he said. “The chance to elect our first female president.”
Clinton herself was holding rallies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Grand Rapids, Michigan, before ending her day in the closely contested swing state of North Carolina.
Her final appearances had a note of optimism mixed with warnings of the threat posed by Trump.
“We don’t have to accept a dark and divisive vision for America,” she told the crowd in Pittsburgh. “Tomorrow you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America.”
The world has looked on aghast as Trump’s sensationalist reality television style became a driving force propelling him toward the most powerful political post in the world.
Asian and European exchanges, which had been rocked by news of the FBI probe, surged Monday morning and Wall Street rose as Clinton’s position strengthened.
But Trump is predicting a ballot upset, or “Brexit plus, plus, plus” as he put it Sunday, referring to the poll-defying British vote to exit the EU.
“If we win, the corrupt politicians and their donors lose. If they win, the American people lose big league,” he told his followers in Sarasota.
“This is it, folks. We will never have another opportunity. Not in four years, not in eight years. It will be over,” he said.
“Our failed political establishment has delivered nothing but poverty at home and disaster overseas. They get rich making America poor. It’s time to reject a media and political elite that’s bled our country dry.”