Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton appears to be picking up momentum as the race for the White House enters the final stretch, clocking a five-point lead in a new poll after a week of surveys suggesting a dead heat with her Republican opponent Donald Trump.
In her best result since October 26, the latest major survey, a ABC/Washington Post tracker released early Sunday gave a Clinton a 48%-43% lead. Polling averages, however, are closer.
The candidates spent the last weekend of the campaign in vastly different settings, with Clinton drawing on star power to bolster support while Trump raced through several states, including a number of Democratic strongholds, in a last-ditch attempt to shore up his numbers.
While Clinton hosted back-to-back weekend pop concerts with Beyonce and Katy Perry, and booked a date with US President Barack Obama, Trump embarked on a cross-country odyssey through Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and New Hampshire.
Clinton’s camp has mocked the 70-year-old tycoon’s scattershot approach to the electoral map as a sign of panic.
But the 69-year-old former secretary of state herself added an extra planned stopover in Michigan, a state that fellow Democrat Obama won easily in 2012. The final 48-hour programs released by both campaigns suggest that operatives believe the race is closer than either side admits.
In the latest sign of the mounting tension and ugly mood of the campaign, Trump was briefly hustled off stage in Reno, Nevada, on Saturday in a false gun scare.
Trump was unruffled, although his son retweeted a message implying it was an “assassination attempt.” The Secret Service said that agents found no weapon.
Whether or not Trump is feeling the pressure as the campaign comes to the end, the billionaire populist’s rhetoric remained triumphalist.
“In three days we are going to win the great state of Colorado and we are going to win back the White House,” Trump promised supporters late Saturday in Denver, Colorado.
“You’re going to be so happy. We’re going to start winning again,” he intoned, urging voters to cast their ballots in person to avoid the risk of fraud in postal voting.
He hit his key themes: promises to tear up free trade agreements, expel undocumented migrants, rebuild an allegedly depleted US military and purge Washington of corruption.
And his fans roared back the same three-word chants: “Build the wall!” “Drain the swamp!” “Lock her up!”
Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook was scathing, telling reporters: “It looks like he’s just trying to go everywhere all at once.”
‘Just has no path’
Mook argued that Trump’s packed schedule was sign of panic that he has failed to break through into Democratic territory.
But Clinton’s late decision to head to Michigan with Obama on Monday and to add a midnight rally in North Carolina as election day begins raised eyebrows.
Mook dismissed suggestions that Clinton is bidding to shore up her crumbling firewall in the north, and predicted she would overturn Trump’s opinion poll lead in Florida.
“Donald Trump has to win all of these battleground races,” he said. “If we win Pennsylvania and Florida, he just has no path.”
The latest poll shows a strong nationwide showing for Clinton but the election will be won or lost in the US electoral college, and perhaps a dozen states are in play. Trump’s camp believes it can pick off enough of them on November 8.
His campaign has been torpedoed and battered but not sunk by allegations of sexual assault and the candidate’s own off-color outbursts.
Meanwhile, the long-running saga of Clinton’s inappropriate use of a private email server — fed by announcements and leaks from FBI investigators — continues to cast a cloud over her pitch as the competent professional.
As the race comes down to the wire, Clinton has tried to pierce through the pessimism with an upbeat message, bringing in heavyweight support from Obama and megastars like Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z.
“We are seeing tremendous momentum, large numbers of people turning out, breaking records in a lot of places,” Clinton declared at a rained out rally in Florida, in reference to the early and mail voting permitted in several US states.
“Let’s vote for the future!” she added through the downpour, urging those who had already cast their ballots to help get their friends to the polls.
Earlier, at a Miami event, her supporters launched into a three-word get out the vote chant of their own: “Knock on doors! Knock on doors!”
Polling and anecdotal evidence suggests that Clinton supporters, in particular previously underrepresented Latino voters, have come out strongly in Nevada and Florida.
But Trump gets big and enthusiastic crowds at his rallies. “And you know what? I don’t need Beyonce and I don’t need Jay-Z,” he boasted.