TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Hillary Clinton reveled in reliably red Arizona, seeking to pluck a Republican state away from Donald Trump in the closing days of the caustic race for the White House. Trump, meanwhile, campaigned with rare discipline as he tries to close his gap with Clinton before next week’s election.
“‘Stay on point, Donald, stay on point,'” Trump, campaigning Wednesday in Florida, teasingly quoted his staff as saying. “No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy. Nice and easy.'”
Trump can’t win the election without carrying Florida, underscoring how narrow his path to the White House is. Despite tightening polls, Clinton still has more options, which was underscored by her decision to make a late stop in Arizona, which has voted for a Republican only once since 1952.
“This state is in play for the first time in years,” Clinton exclaimed during a nighttime rally on the campus of Arizona State University. She was greeted by a boisterous crowd of 15,000, one of her largest of the campaign.
Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, was buoyed, as well, by the Cubs dramatic victory over the Cleveland Indians in the clinching game of the World Series, giving the city its first Cubs championship since 1908. Clinton watched a portion of the game on an aides electronic device after concluding her appearance in Tempe, Ariz., and then helped hold aloft a banner with “W” on its face.
Clinton’s campaign has been eyeing Arizona for weeks, given Trump’s unpopularity with Hispanic voters. As part of her pitch to voters in the state, Clinton painted a grim view of life for Hispanics under a Trump administration. She also waded into a local sheriff’s race getting national attention, backing Democrat Paul Penzone in the race for Maricopa County sheriff, a post held by immigration hardliner Joe Arpaio.
“I think it’s time you had a new sheriff in town, don’t you?” she said.
And in a nod to Republicans, she called out Trump for his criticism in the GOP primary of Carly Fiorina, the only woman to seek her party’s nomination. Clinton called Fiorina “a distinguished woman with a tremendous record of accomplishment.”
There was late action Wednesday in Michigan, too, as well as in North Carolina, where President Barack Obama tried to energize black support for Clinton.
Former President Bill Clinton was making an unannounced appearance in Detroit Wednesday night to meet privately with black ministers, the city’s mayor and other local leaders. Clinton planned to travel to the Detroit area as well on Friday.
A pro-Clinton super PAC was spending more than $1 million on Michigan airwaves along with at least $1 million more in Colorado, another state where Clinton has enjoyed a significant polling advantage for much of the fall.
Early voting numbers in some states suggest that her challenge stems, at least in part, from underwhelming support from African-American voters. Weak minority support could complicate her path in other states, too, including North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Early voting in North Carolina shows a 5 percentage point drop in ballots from black voters from 2012.
Obama, the nation’s first black president, offered an urgent message to North Carolina voters on Wednesday: “The fate of the Republic rests on your shoulders.”
He also criticized Trump’s history of sexist comments and his initial reluctance to disavow white supremacists. They continue to rally behind the Republican nominee, though he rejects that support.
“If you accept the support of Klan sympathizers,” Obama said, “then you’ll tolerate that support when you’re in office.”
At the same time, Clinton allies are speaking directly to black voters in a new advertising campaign running in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. The ad from the pro-Clinton Priorities USA shows white Trump supporters screaming at and pushing black protesters, along with Obama warning that voters would lose “everything” if Trump wins.
As the final-days scramble for votes intensifies, Florida remains perhaps the nation’s most critical swing state.
The Trump campaign knows there is no realistic path to the White House without Florida, where polls give Clinton a narrow lead. The New York businessman campaigned in three Florida cities Wednesday – Miami, Orlando and Pensacola – and will follow up with a stop in Jacksonville on Thursday.
“We don’t want to blow this,” he told rowdy supporters in Miami. “We gotta win. We gotta win big.”
While Trump has devoted perhaps his most valuable resource – his time – to Florida, Clinton has built a powerful ground game, backed by a dominant media presence, that dwarfs her opponent’s. The Democratic nominee has more than doubled Trump’s investment in Florida television ads. Overall, the state has been deluged with $125 million in general election advertising – by far the most of any state.