Monday, November 7, 2016

Trump drifts off message in final stretch

from politico

The Republican nominee punctuates his closing argument with riffs about a Trump mask and complaints about rap music.


Donald Trump characteristically included some out-of-left-field riffs while campaigning Monday. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

Hillary Clinton made her closing argument to voters on the eve of the election with a sober warning, telling supporters in Pittsburgh, "We don't have to accept a dark and divisive vision for America. Tomorrow you can hope for a hopeful, inclusive, bighearted America."

Donald Trump, at his own rally in Florida, held up a rubber mask of his own face and complained about obscenity in rap music.

Both candidates are crisscrossing the country on Monday, making one last push to get out the vote and secure an Election night result that will be historic, one way or another. And while both candidates delivered stump lines in their rallies, it was Trump who characteristically included some out-of-left-field riffs.

Trump complained on Monday that Clinton faced little criticism for her campaign stop over the weekend that featured performances by musical power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé. He said their songs, some of which include sexual, violent and drug-fueled language, did not match with the values of American voters and that his oft-criticized rhetoric pales in comparison.

But the Manhattan billionaire quickly diverged from that subject when a rubber mask of his own face caught his eye in the audience. Trump stopped mid-speech to comment on it, telling the crowd to “look at this mask. Look at this mask. Oh wow. Wow, that’s beautiful. Look at that. Looks just like me.”

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The mask made its way on stage, where Trump held it up next to his own face for the crowd to see. He looked at it one more time, remarking “nice head of hair, I’ll say that,” before tossing it back. He punctuated the aside by asking the roaring crowd, “Is there any place more fun to be than a Trump rally?”

Trump also held up, but refused to wear, a fireman’s hat on stage at his Florida rally, telling the crowd that “I was all set to put it on then I see it’s about 20 years old, and this sucker has been used. No way I’m putting that on.”

Those asides were peppered into what was otherwise Trump’s regular stump speech, a closing argument that reiterated his pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, make better trade deals, and “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption.

Like Trump, Clinton’s camp hewed closely to its regular talking points. And while the Democratic nominee pitched herself to Pennsylvania voters as the optimistic choice for America’s future, President Barack Obama took to the stump in Michigan to do the same.

“After all of the noise, after the negative ads, after all the campaigning, all the rallies, it now just comes down to you,” the president said at a rally at the University of Michigan, where his celebrity was nearly matched by that of another attendee, Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh. “It's out of Hillary's hands now. It's out of Michelle's hands. It's out of my hands. It's in your hands. The fate of our democracy depends on what you do when you step into that voting booth tomorrow.”

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Speaking directly to Michigan’s long-battered automotive workers, Obama talked up his bona fides as their ally. He rehashed the work he did early in his administration to help bail out the industry, comparing that to Trump’s past remark that car makers should have been allowed to go bankrupt. The crowd interrupted the president multiple times to boo, prompting Obama to trot out a favorite line, telling the crowd “don’t boo” to which it responded in unison, “vote!”

“He can't hear your boos but he'll hear your votes tomorrow,” the president told the crowd. “I think we've earned some credibility here. So when I tell you that Donald Trump is not the guy who's going to look out for you, you need to listen. Do not be bamboozled.”

Trump’s campaign has sought to put Michigan, a state that last went for a Republican in 1988, in play with his populist message that rails against the trade deals that have damaged American manufacturing. The Manhattan billionaire’s fifth and final campaign stop of the day, scheduled for 11 p.m. Monday, is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he will appear with running mate Mike Pence.

His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said the Trump camp’s move to push Michigan into play has put Clinton on the defensive in the election’s waning days. She said the real estate mogul’s aggressive play had “rescrambled the map and they followed us,” citing Obama’s election eve rally in Michigan as well as Clinton’s stops both there and in Pennsylvania as proof that the Democratic ticket has been forced to defend its blue turf. Picking off one of those two states, she said, would be crucial to a Trump win on Tuesday.

Trump breaks from stump speech to admire 'beautiful' Trump mask
Trump breaks from stump speech to admire 'beautiful' Trump mask
Trump’s team sees six Electoral College paths to victory on Election Day, Conway said Monday, a wider avenue to the White House than had existed in previous weeks. Colorado and New Hampshire are also possibilities, she said. Conway admitted that strong early voter turnout in Nevada also presents a challenge for Trump, who she said must win there by 5 or 6 percentage points on Election Day to offset early ballots cast in Clinton’s favor.

Still, Conway said enthusiasm is on Trump’s side as voters go to the polls and she told “CBS This Morning” that she is certain of a victory for her boss on Election night.

“We just know we’re going to win. I changed the invitation to tomorrow night’s party from election night to victory party,” Conway said when asked if Trump would be gracious in defeat if the election turns out that way. “We’ve been feeling that momentum and that enthusiasm in the closing days. She definitely has been on defense. They’ve been visiting blue-blue states.”

Conway’s Clinton-campaign counterpart Robby Mook, was just as confident in his own CBS interview, telling his interviewers that momentum and enthusiasm are “subjective terms” and that “we think we have those on our side as well.” But he said his confidence was buoyed more by “record turnout,” especially among Asian-American and Latino voters in North Carolina and Florida, both states that are essential to nearly every path Trump has to the White House.

“It's so important that all of our supporters turn out,” Mook said. “But we think across the country, through our efforts to build that ground game, register people to vote and turn them out, that we have established a lead in some states that Donald Trump can't overcome.”

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Louis Nelson   @louisjnelson

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