Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton raced to add last-minute campaign stops Saturday, scrambling for votes in the final three days of a White House race that has the world on edge.
Arriving in Philadelphia for a high-energy campaign concert by pop icon Katy Perry, Clinton’s camp mocked Trump’s scattershot 10-states-in-three-days approach to the electoral map as a sign of panic.
But the 69-year-old former secretary of state herself added an extra planned stopover in Michigan, a state that President Barack Obama won easily in 2012, suggesting the race may be closer than either side admits.
Trump was briefly rushed off stage by Secret Service following reports of a gunman in the crowd during a rally in Reno, Nevada, but returned shortly afterwards to cheers from his supporters. A suspect was led away.
He appeared unruffled, even energized, by the scare, but whether or not he is feeling the pressure as the campaign comes to the end, the 70-year-old billionaire populist’s rhetoric remained triumphalist.
“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 those chanting were already diehard Trump voters.
After Florida and North Carolina and Nevada, Trump was to head to Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia on Sunday.
On Monday, the eve of polling day, he will head back to Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — then on for a grand finale in New Hampshire.
Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook was scathing, telling reporters: “It looks like he’s just trying to go everywhere all at once.”
– ‘Just has no path’ –
Mook argued that Trump’s packed schedule was sign of panic that he has failed to break through into Democratic territory.
But Clinton’s late decision to head to Michigan on Monday and to add a midnight rally in North Carolina as Monday shades into election day raised eyebrows.
Mook dismissed suggestions that Clinton is bidding to shore up her crumbling firewall in the north, and predicted she would overturn Trump’s opinion poll lead in Florida.
“Donald Trump has to win all of these battleground races,” he said. “If we win Pennsylvania and Florida, he just has no path.”
The campaigns’ claims and counterclaims resound far beyond the United States.
America’s allies are fearful that a candidate who has threatened to review US treaty alliances is within striking distance of the White House.
There was scorn in Britain, where Trump effigies were burned on the traditional November 5 Bonfire Night, and in Germany, where leading news weekly Der Spiegel pictured both candidates covered in mud on its front page.
And in recent weeks, US foes like Russia and Iran have not hidden their mirth at the turmoil rocking US democracy.
Global markets fear an inexperienced demagogue with a protectionist bent could plunge the United States or even the world economy back into recession.
– Narrow advantage –
The polls are unclear. Clinton 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 campaign has been torpedoed and holed 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 Obama and global megastars like singers Beyonce and Perry.
Rain put a dampener on an early rally in Pembroke Pines, Florida, but she was determined to build momentum behind a message embracing 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 added through the downpour, urging those who had already cast their ballots to mobilize to get their friends to the polls.
– Winner in Nevada –
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, in particular previously underrepresented Latino voters, have come out strongly in Nevada and Florida.
Both Nevada and Florida were won by Clinton’s fellow Democrat Obama in 2012, but had been leaning towards Trump. Respected forecasters FiveThirtyEight still give Trump a slight edge in both in polling averages.
Yet the group’s “polls plus” forecast — incorporating economic and historical data — now has Clinton as a “relatively safe” winner in Nevada.