DES MOINES, Iowa — With early voting poised to play a bigger role in this year’s election, Hillary Clinton was urging voters in Iowa to start casting ballots on Thursday, more than five weeks before Election Day.
Clinton’s 10-city tour of Iowa brought the Democratic presidential nominee back to a state where she eked out a win in the caucuses over Bernie Sanders. With her focus now on defeating Donald Trump, Clinton was hoping that putting an emphasis on early voting could help her replicate President Barack Obama’s successful strategy in the battleground state four years ago.
In Des Moines, Clinton planned a speech focused on childcare challenges faced by middle-class families. It’s a traditionally Democratic issue that Trump has taken on recently, prompted largely by interest from his daughter, Ivanka.
The Republican nominee was holding a rally Thursday in New Hampshire, a day after Clinton campaigned there with Sanders in an appeal to young voters. While Clinton sought to broaden her appeal to voters still on the fence, Trump was sticking with his strategy of focusing on the loyal base of working-class voters whose enthusiasm has driven his campaign.
Trump has brushed off harsh critiques of his performance in the first presidential debate that have come from supporters and opponents alike. But in a nod to the concerns expressed by some Trump allies that he was insufficiently prepared, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee released a “TRUMP Debate Preparation Survey” ahead of his second showdown with Clinton.
The survey, a gimmick intended to engage supporters online, asks whether Trump should use the second debate to criticize Clinton for her policies on terrorism, economics and trade _ questions sure to elicit an enthusiastic “yes” from Trump backers. Absent was any inquiry about whether Trump should bring up former President Bill Clinton’s infidelities, as he’s repeatedly threatened to do.
In another reminder of how far this year’s presidential campaign has veered into baffling territory, third-party candidate Gary Johnson was being ridiculed after he was unable, in a television appearance, to name a single world leader he admired. The awkward moment drew immediate comparisons — including by Johnson himself — to his “Aleppo moment” from earlier in the month when he didn’t recognize the besieged city in Syria.
“I’m having a brain freeze,” Johnson said Wednesday.
Trump was also facing fresh questions Thursday about business opportunities he explored in the late 1990s in Cuba, apparently in violation of the U.S. embargo on the communist island.
The work was done by a consulting firm called Seven Arrows on behalf Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., Trump’s publicly traded casino company, Newsweek reported. The magazine said Trump reimbursed the consulting firm for $68,000 of business expenses for its Cuba work — even though neither Trump nor the firm had sought a federal government waiver that would have allowed them to pursue such activities.
Clinton’s focus on early voting reflected the premium that Democrats are placing this year on trying to get their voters to turn out — if possible, long before Nov. 8. Though the political map favours Clinton this year, Democrats are concerned that a lack of enthusiasm will keep their voters from showing up in the same numbers that led to Obama’s victories in the last two elections.
More than 4 in 10 Iowa voters cast early ballots in 2012, and Clinton’s campaign is hoping that even higher interest in early voting this year will give her a decisive edge.
Early voting — either by mail or with voting booths that are open before election day — has been on the rise in the United States. It’s a way to increase voter turnout, especially for Americans who have difficulties making it to the polls on Nov. 8.
Other states have already begun in-person early voting, but Iowa is getting attention because it’s the first battleground state to do so. That means it’s among a dozen states that are not reliably Democratic or Republican, so can sway the outcome in the state-by-state presidential vote.
For Clinton, the early voting strategy is key to any prospects she may have for pulling off victories in states like Arizona and Georgia. Both states traditionally vote Republican in presidential races, but Democrats hope that the growing Hispanic populations and Trump’s unpopularity could alter the calculus this year.
Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, was hunkered down in North Carolina for three days of preparations ahead of Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate. He told reporters in Raleigh that he’d been studying the first Clinton-Trump debate and practicing against a dramatized version of Trump running mate Mike Pence, played in prep sessions by Washington lawyer Bob Barnett.