Winston-Salem (AFP): First Lady Michelle Obama implored voters to troop to the polls as she stumped Thursday for Democrat Hillary Clinton, while the race suffered a scare when Donald Trump’s running mate’s plane skidded off the runway.
No one was reported hurt in the incident, in which the plane carrying Indiana Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence came to rest in grass next to the runway after landing at New York’s rain-soaked LaGuardia airport.
But with the mishap coming in the final throes of a combative campaign that will be decided November 8, several Twitter users described it as a metaphor for the 2016 race.
Trump, speaking in Ohio, said he was grateful that those on the plane avoided “grave, grave danger.”
“I just spoke to Mike Pence. He’s fine,” Trump said.
Clinton also expressed relief that no one was hurt.
The former first lady and secretary of state enlisted the current first lady, who enjoys sky-high support, in hammering Trump and making the case for a third straight Democratic term in the White House.
Obama earned thunderous roars of approval from a crowd of 11,000 as she took the stage with Clinton in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one of the swing states in play, where they accused Trump of seeking to depress turnout.
Obama has emerged as a compelling force in the hard-fought campaign, delivering powerful arguments against the Republican billionaire and in support of Clinton’s bid to become the first female US president.
“She is ready to be commander-in-chief on Day 1, and yes, she happens to be a woman,” Obama said of Clinton, whom she called “my girl.”
The 52-year-old wife of President Barack Obama has energized Democrats by criticizing Trump for his strident rhetoric and for what she brands his “frightening” attitude towards women.
Trump’s strategy was “to make this election so dirty and ugly that we don’t want any part of it,” she said.
“When you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying that this election is ‘rigged,’ understand that they are trying to get you to stay home.”
Clinton has basked in the results of new polls showing her with an impressive lead with just 12 days to go.
North Carolina voted for Obama in 2008, then for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
But Clinton has expanded her narrow lead to 2.4 points in the southeastern state, where Republican leaders worry that Trump’s slow collapse will hurt them in congressional races.
Clinton, whose campaign announced a large fundraising haul on Thursday, struck a tone of unity and optimism.
“As Michelle reminds us, this election is about our kids and, in my case, our grandkids,” Clinton said. “Starting right now, let’s come together. Let’s work together and be hopeful and optimistic and unified.”
– Combative Trump –
The latest rolling poll average compiled by tracker RealClearPolitics showed Clinton, who turned 69 on Wednesday, with a 5.4 point lead in a national race against Trump and two outsiders — pointing to a likely electoral college victory for the Democrat.
In Toledo, Ohio, Trump quipped that the election should be scrapped.
“I am just thinking to myself right now we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump,” he told the crowd.
Trump’s standing has been hit hard, particularly among female voters, since the release this month of a 2005 video in which he boasts that his celebrity allows him to grope women with impunity.
But the 70-year-old Manhattan real estate mogul turned serious in an interview with Fox News, saying that NBC — the company that owns the “Access Hollywood” show that recorded Trump’s 2005 comments — broke the law and could be sued.
“It was an illegal act,” he said.
Trump meanwhile took heart from a new survey that shows him with a two-point lead in Florida, a state where presidential races are often won and lost — and a must-win state for him.
“We don’t want to give this away,” the combative candidate promised supporters in Ohio.
– ‘Fast and loose’ –
The RealClearPolitics poll average still puts Clinton ahead in Florida by 1.6 percentage points, but she wants to lock it in.
The president, who narrowly won Florida in 2008 and 2012, campaigns for her there Friday, while Clinton is scheduled to join pop star Jennifer Lopez on stage Saturday in Miami.
As Clinton called on voters to rise above the nastiness of the race, new WikiLeaks disclosures threatened her campaign, notably an email in which aide Douglas Band detailed his own money-making efforts both on behalf of Bill Clinton personally and the foundation.
Band wrote of helping the former president “secure and engage in for-profit activities — including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements.”
Trump pounced, calling the activity outright corruption.
“If the Clintons were willing to play this fast and loose with their enterprise when they weren’t in the White House, just imagine what they’d do given the chance to once again control the Oval Office,” he said.