Race tightening, Clinton relies on firewall of support

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to members of the audience as she departs a rally at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to members of the audience as she departs a rally at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton is pushing her supporters to cast early ballots in battleground states, as Donald Trump tries to make up ground with intensified attacks following the FBI’s renewed examination of her email practices.

As her national lead shrinks in the final week of the race, Clinton is relying on a firewall of support from women and minority voters in demographically diverse swing states. On Tuesday in rallies across Florida, she plans to hit hard at the treatment of women by Trump, who has been accused of repeatedly sexually harassing and even assaulting them.

She will be introduced by Alicia Machado, the winner of Trump’s 1996 Miss Universe crown whom he has repeatedly insulted for her weight gain.

With more than 23 million ballots already cast through early voting, it’s unclear whether Trump has the time or organizational capacity to improve his standing enough over the next week to win the White House.

While Clinton’s newest email controversy may help Trump pick up support in older, whiter states like Ohio and Iowa, the Republican nominee still faces a narrow pathway to winning the 270 electoral votes — one that includes defending states like Arizona and Utah that Republicans have won for decades.

Even as the White House remains an uphill climb, Republicans see the email exchanges as a new opportunity to win over voters in the dozens of down-ballot races that will determine House and Senate control next year.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who told Fox News he voted for Trump last week, warned that electing Clinton and a Democratic-controlled Congress would be “the worst of all possible things.”

“For those of us who lived through the 1990s, it’s sort of a feeling like deja vu,” he said. “This is what life with the Clintons looks like. It’s always a scandal, then there’s an investigation.”

Both campaigns argued Tuesday they were on the path to victory.

“We’re running like we’re 20 points behind,” said Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. “We are going to win this election, but it’s important that every one of our supporters turns out.”

“We’re in great shape. We’re on offense everywhere,” said Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie. “There’s an enthusiasm gap for their voters.” Both spoke on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Clinton’s campaign has spent nearly two years developing an extensive organizing apparatus, building off the political machine that twice boosted President Barack Obama to victory. Her team has pounded the airwaves with advertising, assembled an expansive voter data file and constructed a nationwide political organization that dwarfs her opponent’s.

On Tuesday, it released a new ad featuring video footage of Trump making sexist and degrading statements about women. “Anyone who does what he does is unfit to be president,” reads text on the final shot of the spot, which her campaign says will run in eight battleground states.

Her team is focused on pushing voters to the polls for early voting in critical states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, where one-third of the expected ballots have already been cast. The Democratic presidential nominee and her allies in a dozen battleground states have more than 4,800 people knocking on doors, making phone calls and otherwise working to support her candidacy.

The New York businessman over the past year has instead depended on massive rallies and free media coverage to drive his outsider candidacy. This week, he’s devoting his most valuable resource — his time — to states where polls suggest he’s trailing Clinton by significant margins.

Trump had two rallies Monday in Michigan, a state that last went for a Republican presidential nominee in 1988. On Tuesday, he’s scheduled to appear with running mate Mike Pence in Wisconsin, which hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984.

“Her election would mire our government and our country in a constitutional crisis that we cannot afford,” he declared Monday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, pointing to the FBI’s examination as evidence the former secretary of state might face a criminal trial as president.

Clinton, defending herself from the new FBI examination, focused Monday on battleground Ohio, a state Trump’s team concedes he must win and where he shows signs of a possible victory.

“There is no case here,” Clinton insisted. “Most people have decided a long time ago what they think about all this.”

Mook, her campaign manager, has decried what he called a “blatant double standard” following a CNBC report that FBI Director James Comey opposed releasing details about possible Russian interference in the U.S. election because it was too close to Election Day. Comey issued a letter to congressional leaders on Friday about the FBI’s new effort into Clinton’s correspondence.

The AP has not confirmed the CNBC report. The FBI declined comment Monday.

Meanwhile, the ongoing mystery of Trump’s tax returns arose again. The New York Times reported Monday night that in the 1990s, Trump avoided paying potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes in a way even his own lawyers considered questionable, using a maneuver Congress explicitly banned in 2004. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Trump’s approach was appropriate.

As for Trump’s charge that a Clinton election might prompt “a constitutional crisis,” the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel said in 1973 that criminally prosecuting a president would unconstitutionally undermine the executive branch. A 2000 memo reached a similar conclusion. Presidents can face civil lawsuits.

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