Clinton, Trump spar on taxes, security as race narrows

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (left) speaks during an election campaign rally at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Greenville, North Ca
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (left) speaks during an election campaign rally at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina on Sept 6, 2016.PHOTO: EPA/REUTERS

TAMPA (AFP) - Hillary Clinton, sensing the urgency of a presidential campaign entering its home stretch, assailed Donald Trump on multiple fronts Tuesday (Sept 6), including hiding his taxes, as she looked to generate momentum after polls showed a dead heat.

Trump has edged ahead of Clinton in a new CNN/ORC poll, at 45 per cent to 43 per cent among likely voters, while an NBC News poll of registered voters shows Clinton's lead holding at six percentage points - 48 per cent to 42 per cent.

Another survey, by The Washington Post, looking at all 50 states shows Clinton with a solid lead in terms of electoral college votes, and even strength in some traditional Republican strongholds.

Clinton said she pays no attention to such surveys.

"We're sticking with our strategy, we feel very good about where we are," she said.

But the polls show how close the race is looking ahead of the Nov 8 vote, making the battle for the so-called swing states all the more important.

Clinton rallied supporters at a voter registration event in swing state Florida, while the billionaire real estate mogul held a townhall meeting with military veterans before heading to North Carolina for an evening campaign rally.

"Thank you! #AmericaFirst," Trump tweeted with the new CNN poll results.

The candidates have just 20 days before the first of three scheduled presidential debates - expected to be the most watched moments of an already raucous campaign.

Clinton, in the national eye for three decades, shrugged off the intense nature of the Republican attacks against her, including a call for a fresh congressional investigation of the Clinton Foundation following reports that donors gained inappropriate access to her while she was secretary of state.

"I believe I'm the best person for this job and I believe they're going to keep coming after me," Clinton told reporters.

With Monday's Labor Day holiday kicking off the final dash to Election Day, Clinton took pains to make herself more than available to reporters travelling with her, after nearly nine months without holding a formal press conference.

She took questions for more than 20 minutes on her plane for a second straight day Tuesday.

Clinton had sharp words for Trump, describing him as "dead wrong" for saying that his tax returns were not the concern of everyday Americans, despite every major presidential nominee since Richard Nixon releasing their taxes before the election.

"I think it is a fundamental issue about him in this campaign that we're going to talk about in one way or another for the next 62 days, because he clearly has something to hide," Clinton told reporters.

"If he's going to pursue this campaign, he owes it to the American people to come clean and release those tax returns."

Clinton also repeated her charge that Trump is "temperamentally unfit" for the office. Before some 1,500 supporters in Tampa, she denounced him as a "demagogue" preying on Americans' insecurities.

Trump assured veterans in Virginia Beach that he was in their corner, and used the opportunity to slam Clinton's ineffectiveness as a top diplomat and politician.

"She's a disaster in so many different ways, folks," he said. "You have illegal immigrants that she wants... treated better than veterans."

The pair have been involved in an extensive tussle over the hot-button issue of immigration.

Clinton is promoting a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million people living in the shadows, while Trump wants to curtail immigration and require that those who wish to gain legalized status must leave the country first.

The two also exchanged shots about national security, with Trump warning that Clinton would be unable to stand up to adversaries like President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

"Putin looks at her and he laughs," Trump said.

Trump released a letter in which 88 retired generals and admirals endorsed him, a revelation dismissed by Clinton.

"I think we're up to 89, but who's counting?" she quipped, noting how several Republican national security figures have openly endorsed her or oppose Trump.

She also upbraided him for saying he would have stayed on his plane and left China if he were treated as President Barack Obama was last week, when he was forced to exit Air Force One from a rear door.

"This is a very consequential relationship," Clinton said of Washington's ties with Beijing.

"You don't get in a snick and stay on the plane and go home because your security and their security are scuffling over what stairs are going to be put up."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Clinton supporter, pointed to the hard-knuckled political battle ahead and urged Clinton to hit Trump relentlessly.

"Once you get someone down, you keep your foot on their throat," Buckhorn told AFP. "If I'm her, I'm hammering him every day and not letting up."