Clinton works to shore up her firewall in key states

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democrats, no longer aiming for a blowout win, are working furiously to shore up Hillary Clinton’s firewall in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, and other key states as her bitter battle with Donald Trump hurtles into the final weekend before Tuesday’s vote.

Clinton, whose nearly 7-point edge in national polls has been sliced to less than 2 points since mid-October, is deploying top surrogates to strongholds that have long been in her column and even touching down in Detroit on Friday for a rally in a state that has voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections.

Clinton’s campaign is also working to fortify her advantage in Democratic-leaning states by launching her first ads in Michigan and New Mexico and returning to the air after a monthlong break in Virginia and Colorado. President Obama won all four states in 2012, and they are considered crucial to cutting off Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes.

Clinton, eschewing the positive spots traditionally released at the close of a campaign, is running two negative ads in those states, one that depicts Trump as a risky commander in chief, the other that casts him as an unfit role model for children. On Thursday, she also aired a new attack ad nationally that includes clips of Trump disparaging women, veterans, the disabled, and Mexicans.


Clinton’s aggressive effort to defend her turf comes as Trump’s unpredictable campaign barrels into the final four days of the campaign with new energy sparked by disclosures about the FBI’s interest in the Democrat and her family. The agency has said it is reviewing new e-mails related to a previously closed probe of Clinton’s use of a private server and has debated launching a separate investigation into allegations of pay-to-play at the Clintons’ family charity.


‘‘Here we go again with the Clintons — you remember the impeachment and the problems,’’ Trump said at a rally in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday, hoping to appeal to wavering Republicans by suggesting that the kind of scandals that dogged President Bill Clinton in the 1990s would follow his wife into office. ‘‘That’s not what we need in our country, folks. We need someone who is ready to go to work.’’

Trump’s campaign amplified the attack, releasing a blistering new ad Thursday that says the FBI inquiry of Clinton’s e-mail practices began “after her e-mails were found on pervert Anthony Weiner’s laptop.”

Clinton, campaigning in the swing state of North Carolina on Thursday, highlighted Trump’s endorsement from the official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan and pointed out that he has retweeted messages from white supremacists.

‘‘He has spent this entire campaign offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters,’’ Clinton said at Pitt Community College outside of Greenville. ‘‘This has never happened to a nominee of a major party.”

Obama urged students at Florida International University in Miami not to elect a former reality-television star to the White House, saying the stakes are higher than in a typical election.

‘‘This isn’t a joke. This isn’t ‘Survivor.’ This isn’t ‘The Bachelorette,’’’ the president said. ‘‘This counts.”

Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, said that after some polls showed Clinton surging to a nearly double-digit lead after the third debate, her campaign had hoped to extend its reach into red states like Arizona and even Georgia.


But as state and national polls have tightened, the campaign has shifted focus to ensuring its supporters are not deflated by the FBI news and show up to vote in must-win states.

“There’s tremendous anxiety around turnout and this all about turnout,” Greenberg said. “Right now, it’s about making sure Democrats come out and that’s the whole ballgame.”

As such, she said, “Stoking fear about a Trump presidency is an important tool.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke during a campaign event in Concord, North Carolina on Friday.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke during a campaign event in Concord, North Carolina on Friday.(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Trump’s campaign said it is focused on winning its “core four” — Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina — and is also targeting Nevada, New Hampshire, and Maine.

“We’re scaling the blue wall and crumbling it down,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told Chuck Todd on MSNBC.

Democrats said they would rely on their superior organizational advantage and their roster of high-profile surrogates to ensure their electoral dam holds. The aim is to increase turnout among core Clinton voters, particularly women and minorities, in Democratic-leaning states.

“They have saturated the battlegrounds and are shoring up those places where Trump needs to break through to win,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s former senior adviser. “There has been a general narrowing of the polls everywhere, mostly before the FBI story, so this is probably prudent.”

Clinton announced Thursday that she would hold her final rally before the election in Philadelphia with President Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton. President Obama and Trump will also hold election-eve rallies in New Hampshire, a key brick in Clinton’s fortress that show signs of breaking.


Clinton and Trump are currently deadlocked in New Hampshire, at 42 percent each, a slight shift from October, when Clinton led by 2 points, according to a Suffolk University-Boston Globe poll released Thursday.

Other polls in that state showed Clinton leading by larger margins over the past several weeks.

One by-the-fingernails scenario shows Clinton could win with 272 electoral college votes, two more than the required 270. But if Trump wins New Hampshire and its four electoral votes, as well as Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida, she would drop to 268, tipping the presidency to him.

Mark S. Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said Clinton still has many more paths to victory than her rival. Clinton can win without Florida and Ohio, he said, while Trump has no shot without Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Mellman said he has long believed the race was going to narrow to 2 to 6 points nationally, so by turning her attention to Democratic-leaning states, Clinton is “buying insurance,” he said.

Clinton will be aided by a long list of heavyweight supporters, including political figures like Senator Bernie Sanders, her primary rival, and celebrities like Jay-Z, who will appear at rallies across the country over the next few days.

Missing will be former governor Deval Patrick, who was discussed by Clinton aides as a potential vice-presidential pick and is considered one of the party’s best orators. He has no plans to hit the campaign trail, according to a spokesman at Bain Capital, where Patrick now works.


Trump, meanwhile, is leaning on family members to campaign for him because he lacks Clinton’s party support and get-out-the-vote operation.

Clinton has also crushed Trump on the air, running three times as many ads over the last four months, according to a Wesleyan Media Project study released Thursday.

Stuart Stevens, a Republican strategist, said Trump faces a distinct disadvantage because he cannot match Clinton’s firepower on air or field operation on the ground.

“We’ve never had a situation in modern politics where there was no campaign on the other side,” Stevens said. “They’re running a concert tour, not a campaign.”

Trump’s wife, Melania, campaigned in Philadelphia on Thursday, and said that, if she becomes first lady, she would combat online bullying.

‘‘Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” she said.

She made no mention of her husband’s long history of insulting political figures, celebrities, journalists, and others on Twitter.

As the race has narrowed, Democrats who had hoped for a decisive win with 300 electoral votes are now pushing just to clear 270, said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist.

“You could feel the wave developing, but that’s dissipated,” Lehane said, blaming the FBI disclosures for sapping Clinton’s momentum. Still, he said, “it’s a really, really difficult scenario for him and she has multiple paths.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@ Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.