LAS VEGAS — Hillary Clinton appears to be weathering a surprise announcement last week that the FBI is reviewing new emails that may involve her private server. She’s also trying to change the subject.
National polling and initial surveys in important battlegrounds like New Hampshire, Michigan and Florida show she remains ahead of Donald Trump.
Yet, compared to a week ago, the margins are narrowing, and the surveys don’t measure voter turnout, the biggest factor that will determine the outcome of race. Trump is using the email development to slam Clinton in every campaign speech.
During a late-night rally Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, the former secretary of State urged supporters not to “get distracted” as she sought to turn the spotlight back to issues that could be damaging to Trump. FBI Director James Comey has said the new trove of emails may or may not prove significant.
On Wednesday in Las Vegas, Clinton asked supporters at a local pipe fitters union hall to “imagine with me what it would be like to have Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office come next January.”
She cited Trump’s comments that more countries should have nuclear weapons and that the military is “a disaster.” Trump would violate Constitutional religious freedom protections and set a bad example with his rhetoric for little girls and boys, she said. Trump’s refusal at their final debate last month to commit to accepting the results of the election amounts to an attack democracy itself, she said.
“This has never happened in American history,” said Clinton. “This, my friends, is not a normal election."
The emails that sparked the FBI announcement were found on the laptop of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide. Comey has said the emails appear to be pertinent, but may or may not be significant, to its initial investigation of Clinton’s private server.
The reemergence of the email issue is making it difficult for Clinton to end her campaign on a positive note as she had hoped. Instead, in the final days of the campaign, Clinton is balancing her message about her resume and policy prescriptions with grim warnings about a Trump presidency. After highlighting her résumé, Clinton has been quickly pivoting to attacks on the Republican nominee before outlining the specifics of her proposals.
“I truly believe you need a candidate to vote for, not just someone to vote against,” she said in Arizona Wednesday. “But if we’re going to make this choice next Tuesday, we need to be clear on what the choice is.”
“If Donald Trump were to win this election, we would have a commander in chief who is completely out of his depth” and whose ideas “are dangerous,” said Clinton.
Each day before the election, Clinton will focus on a different theme, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters. On Tuesday in Sanford, Fla., Clinton highlighted a recent report from The New York Times that Trump may have used a “legally dubious” accounting method to avoid paying taxes for nearly two decades. “This is all part of a pattern for Donald Trump. Time after time, he’s done things not because he thinks they’re right, not even because he thinks they’re legal, but because he thinks he’ll get away with it,” she said, also citing his record of not paying contractors.
Clinton's stop in red-tilting Arizona, where she drew an estimated 15,000 supporters to a field in Tempe, was an effort to project strength. "This state is in play for the first time in years," said Clinton. But on Friday, she’s jetting to Michigan, a state with strong labor ties and that polls show she should carry. She’s also dropping new television ads in Michigan and New Mexico, another blue state she needs to carry, and returning to the airwaves in Colorado and Virginia, states from which she’d previously shifted resources as polling showed her with large advantages.
The blitz is a result of new fundraising dollars that have poured in in the aftermath of the Comey announcement, said Palmieri. “If we’ve seen any effect of James Comey’s letter, it is to be a motivating factor for our supporters,” she told reporters en route to Las Vegas.
Yet Republicans are escalating their attacks, with Trump even urging voters in Wisconsin to go back and change their votes for Clinton. Trump is trying to set her back in traditionally blue states like Wisconsin, which he visited on Tuesday and may return to in the coming days. A new ad from Future45, a pro-Trump super PAC, is attempting to compare Clinton to Richard Nixon.
Recently, Clinton’s confidence in her lead had allowed her to spend time focusing on helping elect more Democrats to the Senate. She was joined by Democratic Senate candidates at her rallies as she slammed sitting Republicans, such as Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr.
That didn’t happen Wednesday in Nevada, when Clinton was joined by Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto but didn’t spend much time attacking Joe Heck, her Republican opponent.
In states like Florida and North Carolina, the campaign is watching African-American turnout in particular. While early numbers in states like Ohio and North Carolina appear lower than in 2012, the campaign is hoping those numbers will rebound in the coming days.