Clinton, Trump begin two-week scramble to finish line of US presidential race

Hillary Clinton (left) and Donald Trump launched their two-week scramble to the finish line of the US presidential race, with the billionaire Republican dismissing the polls to insist he's "winning" the race.
Hillary Clinton (left) and Donald Trump launched their two-week scramble to the finish line of the US presidential race, with the billionaire Republican dismissing the polls to insist he's "winning" the race. PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, NYT

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Mrs Hillary Clinton and Mr Donald Trump have launched their two-week scramble to the finish line of the US presidential race, with the billionaire Republican dismissing the polls to insist he's "winning" the race.

"This is bigger than Brexit, what's going on," the 70-year-old told a rowdy rally in Florida on Monday (Oct 24), referring to Britain's shock June vote to leave the European Union.

Democrat candidate Clinton, 68, is seeking to cement her lead over her White House foe by conquering swing states including Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, where early voting has already begun, as the rivals blitz crucial battlegrounds where the race will be won or lost on Nov 8.

Mr Trump, who faces an increasingly narrow path to victory amid damning revelations about his treatment of women and his claim that the US election system is "rigged", continued to assure his supporters that the polls were unfairly tilted towards Mrs Clinton and that he would prevail.

"We're winning, not only Florida, but we're going to win the whole thing," Mr Trump said in St. Augustine, telling supporters: "I am your voice."

 
 
 

He reiterated his unsubstantiated claims of vote rigging and refused to back off from his incendiary threat not to accept the results of the election if he loses.

He also gave a nod to the early voting system in Florida, urging his supporters to "leave here and vote!"

Residents of Chicago, Charlotte, Miami and Las Vegas are already going to polling stations to cast ballots - with initial indications suggesting a surge in early voting among Democrats.

"We've got to get people turning out. That's the most important thing we can do," Mrs Clinton told WZAK radio station in Cleveland.

At least six million Americans have already voted, according to election expert and University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.

At a fund-raiser in La Jolla, California, President Barack Obama acknowledged that the White House wants an overwhelming victory for Mrs Clinton in order to send a message that Americans reject Mr Trump's divisive rhetoric.

"We want to win big," Mr Obama said. "We don't just want to eke it out, particularly when the other guy's already started to gripe about how the game is rigged."

Campaigning in New Hampshire, a battleground state where her poll lead has grown to about eight points, Mrs Clinton laid into her rival for his latest storm of tweets, including one where he called the operation to oust Islamic State fighters from the Iraqi city of Mosul "a total disaster".

"He's proving to the world what it means to have an unqualified commander-in-chief," she said. "It's not only wrong, it's dangerous, and it needs to be repudiated on Nov 8."

Mr Trump hit back at Mrs Clinton with fresh ammunition: A Wall Street Journal report that the organisation of a Clinton ally gave nearly US$500,000 (S$697,000) to the election campaign of the wife of an FBI official who later helped oversee the probe into Mrs Clinton's private e-mail use.

"She has to be held accountable for this," he boomed.

Most polls put Mr Trump a few points behind in Florida, where Mrs Clinton campaigns on Tuesday and then Wednesday, her 69th birthday.

Mr Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared to contradict her candidate by admitting on Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that "we are behind" but nevertheless insisting that the race was not over.

"Saying the race is over before people actually cast their votes I think is a really elitist proposition going on right now," she told MSNBC on Monday.

Mrs Clinton, the former secretary of state vying to become America's first female president, leads the Republican real estate mogul nationally by about six points according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. She also leads in most battleground states.

A new national ABC News poll showed her on 50 per cent to Mr Trump's 38 per cent - her highest score since the race to succeed Mr Obama began.

In New Hampshire, Mrs Clinton used her position of strength to highlight other Democrats on the ballot, including Governor Maggie Hassan, who is running for Senate.

"We've got to break through the gridlock and the dysfunction that has unfortunately marred Washington," Mrs Clinton said, looking towards Democrats possibly wresting the Senate from Republican control.

In making her case against Mr Trump, Mrs Clinton enlisted Senator Elizabeth Warren, who blasted him for mistreating women.

"Nasty women have really had it with guys like you," said the fiery liberal - in a twist on the now-infamous slur Mr Trump aimed at Mrs Clinton during their final debate.

"Nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote," Ms Warren said.