WASHINGTON: (AFP) – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump launched into the frenzied final day of their historic fight for the White House Monday, with blow-out rallies in the handful of swing states that will decide who leads the United States.
Clinton, the front-running Democrat, aimed to nail down her narrow lead with stops in three battleground states, as President Barack Obama covers for her elsewhere before they join up at a star-studded grand finale in Philadelphia.
Trump, the billionaire Republican nominee, was setting out from must-win Florida on a five state swing, the culmination of a dramatic run for the presidency as a right-wing nationalist vowing radical change in America s relationship with the world.
“I want the entire corrupt Washington establishment to hear the words we are all about to say: when we win tomorrow, we are going to drain the swamp,” he told cheering supporters in Sarasota, Florida.
Chants of “Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp” rose from the crowd.
Despite his outward confidence, the 70-year-old mogul s last best hope of winning on Tuesday may be to break through a wall of Democratic support in industrial northern states like Michigan, and Trump, Clinton and Obama all focused precious final efforts campaigning there.
As she boarded her campaign plane in White Plains, New York for the day s first rally in Pennsylvania, Clinton acknowledged the deep divisions in the country, and admitted that bringing it together again will require “some work.”
“I really do want to be the president for everybody — people who vote for me, people who vote against me,” she told reporters.
In a video message set to air during two prime-time television reaching millions of viewers, Clinton warned, “Our core values are being tested in this election.”
As a piano trills in the background she asks: “Is America dark and divisive, or hopeful and inclusive?”
Two to one
As the day began, Clinton held just a 2.2 percent lead over Trump in a four way race including third party candidates, according to a RealClearPolitics average of national polls.
US media, however, predicted substantial to big wins for the 69-year-old Democrat when electoral votes are counted. Influential election forecaster FiveThirtyEight gave her a two to one chance of winning the 270 votes needed to claim the White House.
Under the cloud of an FBI investigation, Clinton got good news Sunday when James Comey, the agency s director, cleared her again of criminal wrongdoing in her use of email.
But the damage may already have been done.
Her popularity dipped and opinion polls tightened after Comey s campaign bombshell eight days earlier that he was reopening an investigation into whether she exposed US secrets by using a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
It gave Trump a windfall opportunity to recover ground lost while battling accusations of sexual assault, and the race looked headed for a photo finish.
From Sarasota, Trump heads to Raleigh, North Carolina, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Manchester, New Hampshire and Grand Rapids, Michigan for a flurry of back-to-back campaign appearances.
Besides Obama and First Lady Michelle, Clinton will draw on the star power of rockers Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi at their final big rally in Philadelphia Monday night.
Clinton was holding rallies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Grand Rapids, Michigan, before ending her day in the closely contested swing state of North Carolina.
Clinton s final appearances had a note of optimism mixed with warnings of the threat posed by Trump.
“There s fear, even anger in our country. But I ve got to say, anger is not a plan, my friends,” she told the crowd in Pittsburgh.
“We don t have to accept a dark and divisive vision for America,” she said. “Tomorrow you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America.”
The world has looked on aghast as Trump s sensationalist reality television style became a driving force propelling him toward the most powerful political post in the world.
Asian and European exchanges, which had been rocked by news of the FBI probe, surged Monday morning and Wall Street rose two percent on news of Comey s announcement.
Even so, said Patrick O Hare of Briefing.com, “Polls still show a fairly tight race, and with the Brexit surprise still fresh in participants memory, there is a reluctance to take the polling information for granted.”
Trump is predicting just such a ballot upset, or “Brexit plus, plus, plus” as he put it Sunday, referring to the poll-defying British vote to exit the EU.
“If we win the corrupt politicians and their donors lose. If they win, the American people lose big league,” he said in his first rally in Sarasota.
“This is it, folks. We will never have another opportunity. Not in four years, not in eight years. It will be over,” he told his followers in Sarasota, Florida.
“Our failed political establishment has delivered nothing but poverty at home and disaster overseas. They get rich making America poor. It s time to reject a media and political elite that s bled our country dry,” he said.