PITTSBURGH – A campaign shadow lifted by the FBI, Hillary Clinton on Monday promised to build a “big-hearted” America out of the wreckage of a strikingly divisive presidential race. Donald Trump told his supporters this was their last chance to buck a broken political system.
With the end in sight, both candidates set exhausting schedules for the final day of a campaign that has wearied the entire nation, each visiting major cities deep into the night.
Clinton delivered a closing argument that began to look ahead to how she would govern, promising she would listen even to those voters who rejected her and making a late plea for “more love and kindness.”
“We have got to rise above all of this,” she told a cheering crowd in Pittsburgh. “We don’t have to accept a dark and divisive vision for America. Tomorrow, you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, bighearted America.”
Trump’s campaign also promised a positive message in the final hours, although the candidate delivered a sprawling stump speech that kept up the broadsides that have won him his most loyal followers. He railed against Washington, the health care system and Clinton. He continued to pound her for her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
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Trump also questioned the legitimacy of the FBI’s rapid review of a Clinton aide’s emails, saying it could not have been thorough.
“Hillary Clinton is being protected by a totally rigged system,” Trump said at a rally in Sarasota, Florida.
The comments were a reminder that FBI Director James Comey’s news, delivered in a letter to lawmakers on Sunday, was a doubled-edged sword for Clinton. While it vindicated her claims that the emails would not yield new evidence, it ensured that the final hours of her campaign would be spent talking about a subject that has damaged her credibility.
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Clinton’s campaign said she would not be discussing the news Monday as she campaigned in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan. She instead shifted to message of reconciliation after a rough campaign.
“I think I have some work to do to bring the country together,” she told reporters as she boarded her plane for her last battleground tour. “I really do want to be the president for everybody.”
Her campaign said it would make its closing argument in a 2-minute television ad set to air during NBC’s “The Voice” and CBS’ “Kevin Can Wait.” The campaign said the “personal and positive” message would reach some 20 million people just hours before polls open nationwide.
After seeing her solid lead shrink as her email woes resurfaced, Clinton appears to have retained a solid edge in the final days. Her campaign says it’s been buoyed by strong turnout in states that vote early. Trump’s path to victory remained narrow. He must win nearly all of the roughly dozen battleground states up for grabs to take the White House.
More than 42.4 million people have already voted and roughly half the states with advance voting are reporting record levels, including states with booming Hispanic populations, a possible good sign for Clinton.
In Florida, Hispanic participation is up by more than 453,000 votes, nearly double the 2012 level. Black turnout is up compared to 2012, but that share of the total vote is lower due to bigger jumps among Latinos and whites, according to University of Florida professor Daniel Smith
In Nevada, where more than three-fourths of expected ballots have been cast, Democrats also lead, 42 per cent to 36 per cent.
Besides Clinton’s own rallies, high-wattage allies fanned out across the country, including President Barack Obama, who started his day with a get-out-the-vote event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a state that has been showered by candidate attention in recent days.
Clinton was to campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a round-the-clock schedule that included a major rally in Philadelphia with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, along with rock stars Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
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Trump, too, planned to keep up the breakneck campaign pace through Tuesday. After the rally in Floirda, he was headed to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. After voting in New York Tuesday morning, Trump was expected to return to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire later in the day.
Starting out the blitz in Florida, Trump clearly enjoyed his moments in the spotlight.
Speaking to boisterous rally in Sarasota, Trump interrupted his remarks to coo at a baby and comment on a hat in the crowd. When he spotted a mask of his face, he took it and held it up for all to see.
“Nice head of hair, I’ll say that,” he said.
He bragged about his hard campaigning.
“Good luck,” he told supporters. “Get out there. I mean, I did my thing. I worked.”
Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday the White House would “neither defend nor criticize” Comey’s decision to send the new letter to Congress. Earnest used the same phrasing after Comey initially announced the new review of emails found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman and estranged husband of Abedin, the Clinton aide.
But Obama later suggested he thought the investigation was marred by “innuendo” and “incomplete information.”
Comey’s move capped a stunning chapter in the bitter, deeply divisive contest. The director’s initial decision to make a renewed inquiry into Clinton’s emails public on Oct. 28 upended the campaign at a crucial moment, sapping a surge in Clinton’s momentum and giving Trump fresh ammunition to challenge her trustworthiness.
Comey said Sunday the FBI was not changing the conclusion it reached this summer. Then, Comey said, “no reasonable prosecutor” would recommend Clinton face criminal charges.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.