FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hillary Clinton is pressing into reliably Republican Arizona as she tries to steal a state away from Donald Trump. Her rival, reinvigorated by the FBI’s new email review, is laser-focused on Florida, a marquee battleground state he can’t win the White House without.
With less than a week until Election Day, both candidates are warning of dire consequences if the other is elected.
Trump says Clinton would be under investigation as president, sparking a “constitutional crisis,” though the FBI has declined to prosecute her for her handling of classified information. Clinton has vowed the FBI will have “no case” after reviewing new emails, but her campaign is nervous about tightening polls and ramping up attacks on Trump, hoping to scare away voters who could still be persuaded to back him.
On her own Florida swing Tuesday, Clinton hammered Trump as dangerous and divisive, highlighting in particular his treatment of women.
“When I think about what we now know about Donald Trump and what he’s been doing for 30 years, he sure has spent a lot of time demeaning, degrading, insulting and assaulting women,” Clinton said.
Always important in presidential contests, Florida has emerged as this year’s most crucial state on the road to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. Trump can’t win without carrying Florida, meaning Clinton can deliver a knockout blow if she captures its 29 electoral votes.
Even with national polls narrowing, Clinton has several more paths to 270 than Trump. Her campaign is underscoring that political reality with a stop in Arizona Wednesday, a state that has voted for Republican presidential candidates all but once since 1952.
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Her team also sees opportunities in North Carolina, a state that voted for president Barack Obama in 2008 before going Republican four years later.
Obama will be hosting a rally with Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, the first of two visits he’s planned this week to the swing state. African-American turnout is down in early voting in the state, raising concerns about a slump that could hurt Democrats.
Clinton’s campaign says it’s buoyed by early voting turnout among Arizona Democrats, as well as Clinton’s support among Hispanics turned off by Trump’s hardline immigration policies. Democrats have been eying Arizona as a possible swing state in recent years, but believe Trump’s unpopularity with Hispanics has expedited that evolution.
Clinton’s renewed focus on Trump’s demeaning comments on women seemed aimed in part at baiting a response from the notoriously thin-skinned Republican. She notably appeared alongside former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, a woman Trump criticized for gaining weight.
Trump, however, did not immediately take the bait. He spent Tuesday relentlessly on message, eschewing wild tangents and political fights in favour of carefully scripted remarks focused on health care and attacks on his opponent. He cautioned that Clinton’s plan to strengthen “Obamacare” would lead to dire consequences, although he offered few specifics about his own plan.
“If we don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever,” Trump charged in a speech outside Philadelphia.
He also promised, if elected, to call a special session of Congress to replace the law. However, Congress would already be in session when the next president takes office, raising the question of just what he meant.
Still, frustrated Republicans were encouraged that Trump was focusing on policy prescriptions _ for one day, at least _ after a roller-coaster campaign marked by self-created controversy and political missteps.
Meanwhile, both sides continued to spar over the recent revelation that FBI investigators are again probing Clinton’s email practices.
A lawyer for Clinton aide Huma Abedin said Tuesday that her client learned from media reports last Friday that a laptop belonging to her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, might contain some of her emails. The attorney said Abedin has not been contacted by the FBI about the development and she will co-operate if asked.
The revelation has put Democrats on the defensive, at least briefly, and hurt Clinton’s plans to promote a positive message over the campaign’s final week.
“The Trump campaign is on the offensive and we’re expanding our map,” Trump aide David Bossie said, suggesting the campaign now sees opportunities to compete in traditional Democratic states such as New Mexico and Michigan.
Yet few Republican or Democratic operatives view the email news as a game-changer in the race for Senate control. The balance of power in Congress could have profound consequences for the future of health care in America, among other policy debates.
Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer, Julie Bykowicz, Steve Peoples, Erica Werner and Ken Thomas in Washington, Kathleen Hennessey in Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.