Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have a simple closing argument for voters: A loss in Tuesday’s election would be catastrophic.
With four days remaining before the election, the White House rivals are speaking in increasingly stark terms about the stakes of the race. Clinton is portraying Trump as someone who doesn’t care about minorities and women. Trump, meanwhile, is arguing that Clinton flouts the law and says her administration would be consumed with constant investigations and distracting scandals.
Neither candidate is making an affirmative case for their own campaign, more comfortable keeping their opponent’s flaws in the spotlight.
All the focus at this point is on who will be able to secure the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. Clinton maintains the advantage, leading by four points in CNN’s Poll of Polls. She is also ahead in key swing states such as North Carolina and Pennsylvania. But Trump’s campaign senses momentum, cheered by recent polls in some blue-leaning swing states such New Hampshire and Colorado.
Both candidates are focusing on the states that can put them over the finish line. So far, Clinton’s travel plans hint at a strategy of shoring up her strongholds to prevent Trump from breaking out while laying multiple roadblocks that would prevent Trump from winning 270 electoral votes.
Clinton can’t afford falloff
But she cannot afford any falloff in Democratic turnout from 2012 — and is talking up the chances of a Trump victory to create a sense of urgency among her supporters.
“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 incredibly dangerous,” Clinton said Thursday in North Carolina. Trump could “easily insult a foreign leader and start a real war instead of just a Twitter war.”
On Friday, Clinton will play defense and head to Detroit to fire up base voters, especially African-Americans. She’ll be in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia later on, the epicenters of heavy Democratic votes in Pennsylvania.
Both states are on Trump’s lists of possibilities where a breach of Clinton’s defensive wall could turn the electoral math on its head.
On Saturday, after a day on the trail elsewhere, Clinton will be back in Philadelphia for a concert with Katy Perry.
On Sunday, she’ll head to Ohio. She’s likely not made her last visits to Florida or North Carolina, states that her campaign is blanketing with high-profile surrogates, including President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
Should Clinton deprive Trump of Ohio, North Carolina or Florida, she will likely make it all but impossible for Trump to amass 270 electoral votes.
Her campaign will wrap up with a symbolic torch passing rally with Obama and first lady Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton in Philadelphia on Monday night. The event will underscore the symbolism of her historic potential as the possible first female president in the city that nurtured American democracy — and contains a crucial bloc of voters.
As it shores up its electoral position, the Clinton campaign’s final message to voters is adding a harsh new twist to a narrative she has been spinning for months — that Trump is simply not fit to be President.
It’s the latest in a string of hard-hitting Clinton campaign ads highlighting offensive remarks by Trump about Hispanics, disabled people, veterans and women, and several provocative comments about nuclear weapons, and war, over a black and white montage of Americans of every race and age.
The ad ends with the kicker “We are not him.”
The Democratic nominee followed up with a searing indictment of her Republican opponent on Thursday, reaching back to some of Trump’s most explosive comments on race as she campaigned in North Carolina, where high turnout among African-Americans will be crucial to her chances.
“He has spent this entire campaign offering dog whistles to his most hateful supporters,” Clinton said. “He retweets white supremacists and spreads racially tinged conspiracy theories. And you better believe he is being heard loudly and clearly.”
Obama went even further as he beseeched young voters in Florida to send Clinton to the White House, just as their predecessors did for him in 2008 and 2012.
“This is different. This is somebody who would do damage to our democracy, who is uniquely unqualified and shows no interest in becoming more qualified,” Obama said, before going on to make a more positive case for Clinton, who he said dedicated her life to making other people’s lives better.
Trump’s case about Clinton is no less bleak, underscoring the deeply antagonistic and divisive nature of the campaign.
The billionaire is portraying his foe as an impeachment waiting to happen, expanding on his “Crooked Hillary” theme and seizing on the revived controversy surrounding her private email server to maximize the damage.
“Hillary Clinton has engaged in a massive, far-reaching criminal conduct, and equally far-reaching cover-up,” Trump said Thursday in Florida. “She created an illegal e-mail server to shield and guard her activity, so simple, so simple.”
“Here we go again with Clinton, you remember the impeachment, and the problems?” he continued. “She’s likely to be under investigation for many, many years, also likely to conclude in a criminal trial. This is not what we need in this country, folks. We need somebody that’s going to go to work to bring our jobs back, to take care of our military, to strengthen up our borders.”
Trump is also keeping himself in check, showing unusual discipline. After a campaign in which he has repeatedly undermined his own prospects with volatile behavior and controversial comments, he’s stuck to the script for days.
But the pressure will be intense in the final days and will represent the ultimate test of Trump’s temperament and self control. He has so far announced plans to travel to New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania on Friday, North Carolina on Saturday and again on Sunday before heading to New Hampshire.
That itinerary suggests Trump is still seeking to secure Ohio, where his blue-collar friendly populist message has him slightly ahead, and must have North Carolina, where he is four points behind Clinton in the CNN Poll of Polls.
Trump’s trip to New Hampshire comes after several polls showing a serious narrowing of the race in a state Democrats had banked on Clinton winning.
The Granite State only has four electoral votes but it is part of a sequence of battleground states that Trump needs to win to take the presidency, also including Iowa, Nevada and Colorado — assuming he wins North Carolina, Ohio and Florida.
And the wild race is down to its final weekend.