Ken Bredemeier/VOA News
The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is almost over, but not before Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton embarked on a marathon of rallies a day ahead of Tuesday’s national election.
Trump, the blunt-spoken real estate mogul ending his first campaign for elected office, headed to five states in an effort to upend the former secretary of state, who political surveys suggest could become the country’s first female president. Clinton is making four stops in three states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina — the same states Trump is also visiting, along with Florida and New Hampshire.
All five states are among the most closely contested, with the outcome in each of them likely to play a key role in determining who becomes the country’s 45th president, replacing President Barack Obama when he leaves office January 20.
«It’s a close and competitive race, but not a tossup,» political analyst Nathan Gonzales told VOA as the final hours of campaigning unfolded. «She is more likely to win.»
Clinton leads polls
U.S. political surveys continue to show Clinton with a small, consistent edge of about 2 or 3 percentage points in the national popular vote; but, U.S. presidential elections are decided by the results in each of the 50 states and the national capital, Washington. The most populous states hold the most sway in the Electoral College, where the winning candidate needs at least a majority of 270 of the 538 electoral votes to claim the White House, based on the state-by-state outcomes.
Gonzales said Clinton and Trump do «not have the same chance of winning. Donald Trump needs to do better in more states and more of the key states,» with more electoral votes. Most analysts say Clinton is ahead or close to winning in enough states to reach the 270 figure, while Trump needs to capture a handful of states where she now has an edge.
Gonzales said the margin of Clinton’s popular vote edge in pre-election polls is not important, but rather that «her path (to a 270 majority in the Electoral College) is easier. She doesn’t need to win all the swing states,» where the result often shifts between support for Democratic and Republican presidential candidates from one presidential election to the next.
Stops in Florida, Pennsylvania
Trump stopped first in Florida, the large southeastern state where 29 electoral votes are at stake. He maintains a second home mansion along Florida’s Atlantic Ocean coastline and concedes he must win the state in order to have a chance of defeating Clinton nationally.
He recapped some of his favorite anti-Washington themes in the retirement enclave of Sarasota, telling cheering supporters, «Our political establishment has delivered us nothing but poverty at home and disaster abroad.»
«We are going to do things so special,» he vowed. «Our country doesn’t win anymore. We are going to start winning again.»
In the eastern city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Clinton told her supporters that they did not have to accept the «dark and divisive» view of the country Trump was portraying.
«Tomorrow you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America,» she said.
Obama campaigned for her in a college town, Ann Arbor, Michigan, saying that voters can «choose whether we continue this journey of progress or whether it all goes out the window» with the election of Trump, who has vowed to undermine many of Obama’s policies.
Clinton is being joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, daughter Chelsea, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at a massive rally Monday night in Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold and the country’s fifth largest city.
Rock star Bruce Springsteen is joining them to entertain in a get-out-the-vote effort for Pennsylvania, a state where there is no early voting, unlike many other states where more than 41 million people have already cast ballots.
Both candidates planned to campaign late into Monday night and early Tuesday – Trump in the midwestern state of Michigan and Clinton in the mid-Atlantic state of North Carolina.
In a campaign with numerous twists and turns, there was one last surprise Sunday. James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told congressional leaders that investigators had ended a second probe of Clinton’s handling of national security material in her emails when she was the country’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013. Comey said the FBI reached the same conclusion it did in July, that she was «extremely careless» but that no criminal charges were warranted.
A week-and-a-half ago, Comey roiled the election by saying the FBI was taking a new look at Clinton’s emails after finding thousands of them on the computer of disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of key Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. The FBI determined the new emails were duplicates of others it had already examined or personal emails unrelated to Clinton.
The Clinton campaign voiced relief, but Trump rejected the finding as illegitimate.
«You can’t review 650,000 emails in eight days,» he told a rally in the wee hours of Monday in Virginia. «You can’t do it, folks.»
At his Florida rally Monday, he said that if the FBI is not going to pursue the case against Clinton, «now it’s up to the American public to deliver justice at the ballot box,» by voting against her.