Clinton touts optimism against Trump's grim warnings

US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. PHOTO: REUTERS

CLEVELAND (AFP) - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump brandished starkly different visions of America as they headed into a fierce final weekend of campaigning on Saturday (Nov 5), one celebrating hope as the other bashed corruption.

Trump portrayed Clinton as a product of a venal and incompetent establishment, while Clinton headlined an optimistic concert spectacular featuring superstar singer Beyonce.

Forecasts still give the 69-year-old Democrat an edge over the 70-year-old Republican property mogul ahead of Tuesday's vote.

But Trump has been buoyed by signs that he is closing the gap in the key swing states that will decide who secures an electoral college win.

In a first, Trump on Saturday delivered the Republican Party's weekly radio address. The remarks are the opposition party's response to the president's weekly radio address.

While President Barack Obama focused on his signature health care program, Trump urged listeners to vote Republican down the ballot.

"I'm asking for your vote and your help in electing a Republican majority in Congress, so that we can finally change this broken system and make America great again. And when I say great, I mean great for everyone," Trump said.

He added: "This is not just a campaign, it's a movement. It's a once in a lifetime chance to take our government back from the donors and the special interests, and return the power to you, the American people."

 
 

Trump has tense relations with Republican leaders, many of whom withdrew their endorsement after comments surfaced in which he boasted in explicit terms about groping women.

On Friday both Trump and Clinton campaigned in the US rustbelt, a region where blue-collar voters that were once reliable Democrats may be swayed by Trump's promise to repatriate jobs from Mexico and China.

Clinton spoke late Friday in Cleveland, Ohio, a state that Obama won in 2012 but where she trails Trump in opinion polls by around five percentage points.

She was introduced with a show-stopping set by rapper Jay-Z and his even more famous wife Beyonce, who sang songs of empowerment wearing a version of Clinton's trademark pantsuit.

"The world looks to us as a progressive country that leads change," Beyonce declared.

"I want my daughter to grow up to see a woman lead our country. That is why I'm with her."

Clinton portrayed her campaign to become the first female US president as the next step in the civil rights struggle.

"We have unfinished work to do, more barriers to break, and with your help, a glass ceiling to crack once and for all," she declared, to loud cheers.

Clinton earlier visited Detroit, Michigan, where supporters booed when she attacked Trump's "dark vision" of an America mired in poverty and failure.

"When I hear my opponent talking about America I don't recognize it," she declared, touting her own "confident, optimistic, inclusive" agenda.

Trump has run one of the most aggressive and populist campaigns in history, browbeating his Republican primary rivals into submission before tearing into Clinton.

Trump campaigned in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hoping to shatter the "firewall" pollsters once thought Clinton enjoyed in Democrat-leaning states.

"I want the entire corrupt Washington establishment to hear the words we're about to say. When we win on November 8 we're going to 'drain the swamp'," he said, as the 13,000-strong crowd took up the chant.

Trump predicted that Clinton will be prosecuted after an FBI inquiry into her inappropriate use of private email when she was secretary of state, and vowed to tear up current US free trade deals.

"We're gonna win Pennsylvania big," he said.

"And by the way, I didn't have to bring J-Lo or Jay-Z. I'm here all by myself," he added, mocking Hillary's celebrity event.

"Hillary is about as corrupt as they come," declared 27-year-old welder Logan Sechrist, who came to Hershey with his pregnant wife to hear Trump's jobs plan.

"I think honestly we need somebody who's a businessman and not a politician," Sechrist said.

"The country's falling apart."

Zach Rehl, a 31-year-old Marine veteran, said previous Republican candidates failed to support factory workers whose jobs have been shipped abroad under global trade rules.

"This thing hits people at home," he said, predicting that election night in Pennsylvania would be "pretty close."

Some Clinton supporters have a similar feeling.

"It's nerve-racking that Trump's gotten this far," said Rachel Zeolla, 27, at a Clinton rally in Pittsburgh.

A Pennsylvania polling average compiled by tracker RealClearPolitics gives Clinton a 2.6 percentage point edge in the state.

Pennsylvania, Michigan and perhaps Ohio were once seen as low hanging fruit for Clinton, guaranteeing her victory even if she doesn't pick off a prize like Florida.

Friday also brought a fresh crop of press scandals, which may or may not affect the race.

The Associated Press reported that Trump's Slovenia-born wife Melania took paid work as a model in the 1990s before obtaining a legal US work permit.

And the Wall Street Journal alleged that the National Inquirer tabloid paid for exclusive rights to an ex-Playboy model's account of a 2006 affair with Trump, then quashed the story.

Both candidates headed Saturday to Florida, a must-win for Trump and a last chance for Clinton to stem his recovery.