Trump, Clin­ton race heats up

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

NEW YORK — The pub­lic hol­i­day that kick­starts the home stretch of fran­tic cam­paign­ing for the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was dom­i­nated by two fa­mil­iar ques­tions — whether Don­ald Trump is sta­ble enough, and whether Hil­lary Clin­ton is trust­wor­thy enough, to run the coun­try.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Trump and Clin­ton, his Demo­cratic ri­val, both flew to the bat­tle­ground state of Ohio on Mon­day for a Labour Day hol­i­day that sig­nals the start of two fi­nal months of hand­shak­ing and speech-mak­ing be­fore the Novem­ber 8 bal­lot.

Trump met union mem­bers in Cleve­land and at­tended a state fair, while Clin­ton, speak­ing with re­porters be­fore march­ing in a Labour Day pa­rade, said the race had be­come a “mad dash” for the White House. “I’m more than ready,” she added. Though she leads Trump in an av­er­age of polls by some four per­cent­age points, Clin­ton was on the back foot again this week­end af­ter the lat­est in a se­ries of dam­ag­ing rev­e­la­tions over her use of pri­vate email while serv­ing as sec­re­tary of state.

On Fri­day, the FBI re­leased 58 pages of notes from a probe that ended with the agency’s di­rec­tor James Comey declar­ing that Clin­ton and her staff had been “ex­tremely care­less” when han­dling clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

On Mon­day, Trump’s deputy cam­paign man­ager David Bossie de­cried Clin­ton’s “ter­ri­ble judg­ment, in­com­pe­tence and dis­hon­esty” — tar­get­ing one of the for­mer first lady’s cru­cial weak­nesses in the eyes of vot­ers.

Trump still trails Clin­ton in many bat­tle­ground states where the elec­tion will likely be de­cided, but he has drawn close to her in others.

The fore­caster FiveThir­tyEight gives Clin­ton a 72.3 per­cent chance of win­ning, against Trump’s 27.7 per­cent. Trump’s re­bound from a se­ries of self-in­flicted blows has fol­lowed the hir­ing of new cam­paign man­agers.

The coiffed prop­erty mogul is show­ing more dis­ci­pline at ral­lies, read­ing from teleprompters rather than risk­ing more off-the-cuff gaffes.

But Trump’s visit to a largely AfricanAmer­i­can church con­gre­ga­tion in Detroit on Satur­day high­lighted how much work he still has to do with blacks, Lati­nos and other mi­nor­ity groups. Out­side, scores of protesters chanted: “No jus­tice, no peace.”

“As the home­stretch of the elec­tion be­gins, is in­creas­ingly clear that it will be a ref­er­en­dum o n Trump. De­spite what his cam­paign says, they face an uphill bat­tle, and it re­sem­bles Mount Ever­est,” Jonathan Cris­tol, a scholar from the World Pol­icy In­sti­tute think tank, told Al Jazeera.

Last week, Trump’s cam­paign team cel­e­brated a it suc­cess af­ter the New York busi­ness­man made a quick trip to Mex­ico, ap­pear­ing side by side with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto, af­ter talks about Trump’s wall-build­ing and anti-im­mi­grant poli­cies.

An im­mi­gra­tion speech Trump gave af­ter his trip to Mex­ico, how­ever, drew crit­i­cism from some of his His­panic sup­port­ers and sev­eral back­ers ad­vis­ing him on the is­sue de­cided to split from his cam­paign.

“Trump is hop­ing that he can do some­thing sim­i­lar to the UK’s Brexit vote, where mo­bil­is­ing a pop­ulist fear of im­mi­grants can build a cross-class al­liance of white peo­ple at a time of deep eco­nomic in­se­cu­rity,” New York Univer­sity scholar Arun Kund­nani told Al Jazeera.

“It may work, but it looks like the de­mo­graph­ics won’t en­able that to hap­pen in the US like it did in Bri­tain.”

This piv­otal month of cam­paign­ing cul­mi­nates in the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate on Sep­tem­ber 26 at Hof­s­tra Univer­sity in Hemp­stead, New York.

The tele­vised face-off could be one of Trump’s last chances to stop Clin­ton’s re­turn to the White House. But it re­mains un­clear how the brash in­sults he used to side­swipe ri­vals in the ear­lier Repub­li­can-only de­bates will trans­late into a one-on-one with Clin­ton, an ex­pe­ri­enced de­bater who can reel off poli­cies and sta­tis­tics.

As prepa­ra­tions for the de­bates are well un­der way, crit­ics say the en­try rules are too tough. Can­di­dates must av­er­age at least 15 per­cent sup­port in na­tional polls to win a spot on the stage — a bar that will likely ex­clude such al­ter­na­tives as the Lib­er­tar­ian Gary John­son and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

Jeff Co­hen, an Ithaca Col­lege me­dia scholar, said more can­di­dates from across the poli­tical spec­trum de­serve a place on the pres­i­den­tial de­bate stage as vot­ers are aban­don­ing the ma­jor par­ties in ever-greater num­bers.

“The two ma­jor party can­di­dates are the least pop­u­lar in re­cent US his­tory and the two ma­jor par­ties have less sup­port than at any time in mod­ern his­tory,” Co­hen told Al Jazeera. “The US is the first mod­ern democ­racy, and our pres­i­den­tial elec­tions have be­come a sham, where we’re de­cid­ing who to vote against from two un­pop­u­lar can­di­dates.”

In ad­di­tion to her de­bat­ing skills, Clin­ton has mil­lions of dol­lars at her dis­posal to air tele­vi­sion ad­verts and power a get-out-the-vote op­er­a­tion in toss-up states. She raised a com­bined $143m in Au­gust for her cam­paign and her party - her best month of fundrais­ing yet.

She started Sep­tem­ber with more than $68m in her cam­paign’s bank ac­count to use against Trump, who has not yet re­leased ini­tial fundrais­ing to­tals for Au­gust.

“The home­stretch of the elec­tion is not go­ing to be about chang­ing the minds of vot­ers in sub­ur­ban Phil­a­del­phia, but about or­gan­i­sa­tion and turnout. At this point, I doubt there are many peo­ple who are un­de­cided about Trump,” said Cris­tol. “Trump knows this, which is why he has es­sen­tially called for a cam­paign of in­tim­i­da­tion at polling places, and has started to ques­tion the le­git­i­macy of the Amer­i­can sys­tem.” —

US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton

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