ATKINSON — Hillary Clinton sped across battleground states Friday trying to energize minority and female supporters and seal a historic presidential victory, while Donald Trump traveled to small-town America to fire up the white, working-class voters he insists will bring the crown to his outsider campaign.
Clinton and Democratic allies used star power and stark warnings as they addressed her base of African-American, Hispanic and female voters. She was campaigning in urban centres of Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland while President Barack Obama made her case in Charlotte, North Carolina — all cities where minority voters are crucial.
In Pittsburgh, a city where one in three people is not white, Clinton hammered Trump as “someone who demeans women, mocks people with disabilities, insults African-Americans and Latinos and demonizes immigrants and Muslims”.
“Everywhere he goes he leaves people behind,” Clinton told rowdy supporters. She is hoping to be elected next Tuesday as the nation’s first female president.
Trump, meanwhile, was on a tour of rural areas, hoping to boost turnout among the voters drawn to his promise to bring back a lost America. He started his day in Atkinson, New Hampshire, population 6,800 and almost 98 per cent white, according to the US Census Bureau. From there, he was bound for Wilmington, Ohio, another overwhelmingly white town where just 13 percent of residents have a college degree.
Speaking more than 2,000 miles from the Mexican border, Trump drew loud cheers in Atkinson when he vowed to build a massive wall between the US and Mexico. The crowd booed when he contended that Clinton supports “open borders”.
“Her plans would mean generations of terrorism, extremism and radicalism spreading into your schools and through your communities,” Trump declared.
In spite of a close race in national polling, Trump’s path to victory remains narrow. His campaign is increasingly looking to make up for losses among suburban voters, particularly women, by wrestling up new voters in out-of-the-way places.
The candidates’ divergent paths highlighted the yawning gaps between race, place and economics that drive presidential policies.
Trump told his largely white audience in Atkinson that “we have to rebuild our country”.
“They’ve shipped our jobs and they’ve shipped our wealth to other countries,” he said. “To all Americans, I say it is time for new leadership.”
Trump’s dark views on the economy clashed with a new jobs report showing the unemployment rate declined to 4.9 per cent while wages went up in October. The report marks 73 straight months of job growth.
But the Republican said the numbers weren’t good enough, and he cast doubt on whether they were accurate.
“These numbers are an absolute disaster,” Trump said, reviving his argument that the unemployment numbers released every month by the Labour Department are skewed because they don’t accurately account for those who’ve dropped out of the workforce.
“Nobody believes the numbers they’re reporting anyway,” he said.
As he spoke, Clinton campaigned in Pittsburgh, delivering a nearly opposite message. She celebrated what she described as the Rust Belt city’s rebirth of “confidence” and economic renewal. She asked voters to “imagine two different Americas” — one with Trump in charge, and one with her in the White House.
“Think about what it will be to trust the nuclear codes to someone with a very thin skin,” she said, adding Trump could “start a real war, not just a Twitter war at 3 in the morning.”
Clinton called the jobs report “good news”.
“I believe that our economy is poised to really take off and thrive,” she said. “When the middle class thrives, America thrives.”
Clinton’s campaign has announced two more stops in Philadelphia before Tuesday. Pennsylvania is a state where Clinton has long had a solid lead; it has not voted for a Republican in six presidential elections.
But with polls tightening across battleground states, Democrats are taking little for granted. Former President Bill Clinton worked to drive up turnout in Colorado on Friday, while Vice President Joe Biden was due in Wisconsin, both states Clinton was believed to have locked up weeks ago.
Clinton herself was to wrap her day in Cleveland at a get-out-the-vote rally with hip-hop artist Jay-Z.
Meanwhile, Obama halted an afternoon speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to defend a pro-Trump protester who was chanting the Republican nominee’s name.
The Democratic president told the crowd to “sit down and be quiet”. He defended the man’s right to free speech. The protester was eventually escorted out of the venue.
“If we lose focus, we could have problems,” Obama said.