Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1311, (8 - 21 September 2016)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1311, (8 - 21 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Setting sights on November

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton headed this week into the final two-month sprint to the 8 November US presidential elections, reports Khaled Dawoud

Al-Ahram Weekly

The two key rivals in the US presidential race, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, kicked off on the last stretch of their campaigns this week by seeking to mend ties with the media and by visiting influential states.

Two months before the 8 November elections, opinion polls continue to show Clinton ahead with a comfortable lead. However, the Republican presidential nominee suddenly seemed stronger. In his recent statements, Trump adopted a more compromising tone, and sought to mend broken fences with two influential minorities, namely African-Americans and Hispanics.

But no overtures were made towards Muslim Americans, except that Trump has eased back from his controversial plan announced earlier this year to ban all Muslims from entering the United States if elected president, saying he would “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism,” such as Syria.

Meanwhile, both candidates started touring important swing states that are likely to determine the outcome of the upcoming elections, starting with Ohio on Monday. Trump and Clinton also made overtures to a news media that each candidate sees as often hostile to them, each talking to reporters on their private planes. Clinton’s session with reporters was her first news conference since last December.

After eating a gyro at a diner in the Cleveland area, Trump rallied thousands of cheering supporters at a county fair in Canfield, while Clinton visited a brewery in Cleveland. For a time, their planes were parked about 200 yards apart at Cleveland airport, a sign of Ohio’s importance in the election.

Bill Clinton, former US president, appeared at a Labour Day parade in Detroit and sought to downplay reports about the Clinton Foundation benefiting from Hillary while she served as secretary of state in the first administration of outgoing US President Barack Obama. Seeking the backing of progressive voters, Hillary also enlisted her primary opponent for the Democratic Party nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who made his first solo appearance on her behalf at a rally in New Hampshire.

Ohio is considered one of four swing states (those that are not clearly in the Democratic or Republican camp) that could prove decisive in the Electoral College vote that will ultimately determine the winner. The other swing states are Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Trump was buoyed by more polls showing him in a competitive position. The latest Reuters-Ipsos poll showed Trump with 40 per cent support versus 39 per cent for Clinton, effectively ending Clinton’s bump up in the polls after the Democratic Convention in July. Other polls showed Clinton’s lead had shrunk.

“I think we’ve had a great month,” Trump said.

Clinton remains in a strong position to win the White House race, but Trump and his team cited his growing strength in opinion polls nationally and in several states where the election is likely to be decided, arguing that his message is breaking through to voters.

Ironically, both candidates continued to be seen largely negatively by the majority of US voters, even if they were going to vote for them. Fifty-nine per cent of registered US voters said they viewed Clinton unfavourably, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll last week, almost the same as Trump’s 60 per cent. Together, they are the least favoured presidential candidates in America’s modern history, and the door remains open for last minute scandals that might influence the outcome of the vote.

Clinton, who emerged into the public eye after days of raising money from wealthy donors behind closed doors, said she always knew the race would be close.

“We’re just going as hard and fast as we possibly can to be organised for turning out the vote, because we’ve always thought this was going to be hard, and that’s why, you know, I’m not worried, I’m just working,” she said.

Trump, shaking his fist triumphantly, plunged into a crowd at the Mahoning County Fair where supporters had built a replica of the wall the Republican nominee has pledged to build along the US-Mexico border.

“This has been an unbelievable reception!” Trump said after manoeuvring through a crowd of people who shouted his name. Inviting reporters onto his plane for the first time since accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Trump said his focus going forward will be on how to create jobs for middle-class Americans.

He has spent most of the past two weeks trying to clarify his position on illegal immigration, first flirting with a softening, then reinforcing his hardline approach, and then, on his plane, saying undocumented people might ultimately get on a path to legal status once border enforcement steps are taken.

“We’re going to make that decision into the future,” Trump said. But, he stressed, “to become a citizen, you are going to have to go out and come back in through the process. You’re going to have to go out and get in line. This isn’t touchback. You have to get in line.” He added, “I’m all about the jobs now,” saying his position on the immigration issue is now well known.

He also pledged to participate in all three televised presidential debates, ending speculation that he might sit out one or more if he was not happy with the format. His first face-off with Clinton is at Hofstra University in New York on 26 September.

Clinton made a stop at a brewery in Cleveland before heading to a nearby Labour Day parade and rally, where she tested a new jab at her opponent: “Friends don’t let friends vote for Trump.”

The Labour Day holiday traditionally kicks off the last stretch of campaigning ahead of the November election.

Speaking to reporters on her new campaign plane, Clinton took credit for Trump’s overture to the news media. Clinton, buffeted by controversy over her use of a private email server while US secretary of state, has been criticised by Republicans and the news media for months for failing to hold a news conference.

“I heard, now that we’ve got this great plane, that Donald Trump actually invited his press on his plane where I’m told he even answered a few questions,” said Clinton.

Trump’s rebound from a series of self-inflicted wounds follows the hiring of a new campaign management team, and the Republican nominee is showing more discipline on the stump.

Trump has been helped by what his campaign said was a positive week last week, highlighted by a quick trip to Mexico, appearing side by side with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and a visit to a black church in Detroit.

But an immigration speech that Trump gave following his trip to Mexico drew criticism from some of his Hispanic supporters, while several backers advising him on the issue decided to part ways with his campaign.

Trump aide Jason Miller said rising poll numbers showed that the campaign was moving in the right direction.

“The trend lines are the important thing to point to,” Miller told Reuters. “The problem that Clinton has is there is no positive information flow for her campaign.”

Clinton, who was President Barack Obama’s first-term secretary of state, appeared at few public campaign events during the latter half of August, instead raising funds at high-dollar events in the East Coast vacation spots of Martha’s Vineyard and The Hamptons, and with celebrities in Los Angeles and high-tech leaders in Silicon Valley.

Clinton’s campaign announced that it had raised $143 million in August for her presidential bid and the Democratic Party.

Clinton is again on the defensive over her use of a private email server and possible conflicts of interest with her family foundation while secretary of state, which have caused unease for some voters. But experts still see the Democratic nominee as the odds-on favourite to win the presidency. (see P.14)

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