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Clinton Backpedals on Criticism of Trump Supporters

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at an LBGT for Hillary Gala at the Cipriani Club in New York, Sept. 9, 2016.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton apologized — partially — for calling supporters of her Republican opponent Donald Trump "deplorables."

Clinton released a statement Saturday, after saying at a fundraiser Friday night that "half" of Trump's supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables" — as racists, homophobes, sexists, Islamophobes or otherwise afraid of people not like themselves.

Clinton said Saturday that she regretted part of her statement, calling it "grossly generalistic" and walking back her assertion that "half" of Trump's supporters fit that description.

But she went on to say, "It's deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people."

Clinton said for that reason, she will not stop "calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign."

Earlier Saturday, the Trump campaign pounced on Clinton's comment, criticizing her for disrespecting voters.

Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speaks to the Values Voters Summit in Washington, Sept. 10, 2016.
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speaks to the Values Voters Summit in Washington, Sept. 10, 2016.

Speaking Saturday at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence defended supporters of the Trump campaign: "They are not a basket of anything. They are Americans and they deserve your respect."

Pence added that "no one with that low opinion of American people should be elected president of the United States. We must decide Hillary Clinton will never be president of this great nation."

The latest round of rhetoric between the campaigns came as national polls showed Trump gaining ground on Clinton as she struggles to dampen controversy about how she managed classified email while she served as President Barack Obama's secretary of state.

The latest RealClearPolitics national average showed Clinton clinging to a 2.7 percentage-point lead over Trump, much smaller than the nearly 8 percentage-point lead she enjoyed shortly after the Democratic National Convention in late July.

Electoral College

Data released Saturday suggested Trump was also gaining ground on the electoral road to the White House. The Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project showed Clinton would still be the more likely winner if the election were held today, but that Trump had caught up to her level of support in several states, including the battleground states of Florida and Ohio.

The project, which combines opinion polls with an analysis of voting patterns, showed Clinton had an 83 percent chance of winning the presidential election by an average of 47 electoral votes in the Electoral College, a body of people who ultimately elect the president. In August, the data showed Clinton had a 95 percent chance of winning the election by an average of 108 electoral votes.

Undecided voters remain a big question mark in the race for the White House. Polls show the pool of undecided voters is much larger today than it was in the 2012 presidential election. Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls conducted this summer and during the same period four years ago showed undecided voters make up about 13 percent of all voters, compared with 8 percent in 2012.

With many polls showing most undecided voters having very unfavorable views of Trump and Clinton, the chances are greater they may vote for third-party presidential candidates such as Green Party hopeful Jill Stein, independent Evan McMullin or Libertarian Gary Johnson — or not vote at all.

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