WASHINGTON - Increasingly confident of winning the U.S. presidency in the November election, Democrat Hillary Clinton is expanding her campaign into traditionally Republican states in hopes of closing off a path to victory for Republican Donald Trump and to support the election of more Democratic lawmakers in Congress.
With three weeks until Election Day, the Clinton campaign says it will spend $2 million more in advertising in the Western state of Arizona, which has voted for a Democratic presidential contender only once in the last 16 elections.
It also plans to send one of its most popular surrogates, first lady Michelle Obama, to the state Thursday to hold a rally for Clinton. Recent polls show Clinton and Trump locked in a tight race in the state, which shares a border with Mexico.
In addition, the Clinton campaign is also ramping up its efforts in two Midwestern states where Trump leads: Missouri and Indiana. Both states have closely contested Senate races that Democrats and Republicans view as important in their efforts to win political control next year in the Senate, where Republicans now have a majority.
Polls give Clinton 7-point lead
Recent polls show Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state seeking to become the country’s first female president, surging to a bigger lead over Trump, a brash real estate mogul making his first run for elected office. The political website Real Clear Politics says its average of national surveys shows Clinton with a 7-percentage-point advantage, while several political analysts say she has about a 9-in-10 chance of becoming the country’s 45th president.
Clinton and Trump are squaring off for their third and last debate Wednesday, with both candidates facing tough questions, Clinton about her use of a private, unsecured email server when she was the country’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, and Trump about his boasts on a 2005 tape that he could grope women with impunity because he was a celebrity and subsequent allegations from multiple women that he made unwanted advances on them over several decades.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that Clinton’s handling of national security material in her emails was “extremely careless,” but that no criminal charges were warranted.
But in a new document released Monday, the FBI suggested that a State Department aide sought to get one of the documents downgraded from a secure classified rating to unclassified in exchange for allowing more FBI agents to be stationed at U.S. consulates in foreign countries.
The State Department has denied that any such quid pro quo offer was made, and the FBI kept the document classified, over State Department objections.
Clinton has said many times she made a mistake in using the private email server, rather than a more secure government server, but says she did not knowingly send or receive classified material even though some of it turned out to include such emails.
President Barack Obama said the allegations of a deal to change the classification of the document “are just not true.”
Trump claimed Monday that hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta being released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks “proves even the Clinton campaign knew” that she “mishandled classified info” on the private, unsecured email server she used while serving as U.S. secretary of state.
“But no one gets charged? RIGGED!” he said.
Melania Trump defends husband
Trump has plunged in polling against Clinton for the last week and a half after the 11-year-old tape surfaced. At the second debate on October 9, Trump denied he had acted on his boasts of kissing and groping women, saying it was “locker room talk.” But within days, at least nine women said he had made unwelcome advances on them over several decades.
Trump’s wife, Melania, in interviews Monday and Tuesday, echoed his complaint that the allegations were part of a broad election conspiracy against him by the U.S. news media and the Clinton campaign.
“They want to damage the presidency of my husband, and it was all planned, it was all organized from the opposition,” she told Fox News.
In an interview broadcast Monday on CNN, Melania Trump alleged that her husband was “egged on” by a TV personality, then Access Hollywood anchorman Billy Bush, to say “dirty and bad stuff” on the tape recorded in 2005. She added about her husband, “This is not the man that I know. He is a gentleman. He is kind. And I know he respects women.”
Melania Trump told the network her husband apologized to her for his remarks on the tape, and that she accepted his apology.
She described his taped comments as “boy talk,” and said that allegations the women subsequently made against him “should be taken care of in a court of law. And to accuse, no matter who it is, a man or a woman, without evidence is damaging and unfair.”
Donald Trump on Monday ramped up his contention that the election is rigged against him.
Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2016
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day,” Trump said in one of a flurry of Twitter comments. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”
Trump has produced no evidence of voter fraud or other claims he has made, such as alleging Hillary Clinton was on drugs during their last presidential debate.
A new survey by the political website Politico and the polling company Morning Consult shows many Americans are skeptical about the integrity of the national election, with 41 percent of voters believing that the election could be “stolen” from Trump. There was a wide partisan split in the poll results, with 73 percent of Republicans, but only 17 percent of Democrats, agreeing that there could be massive vote fraud.