Race tightening, Clinton relies on firewall of support

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Hillary Clinton is pushing her supporters to cast early ballots in key battleground states, as Donald Trump tries to make up ground with intensified attacks following the FBI’s renewed examination of her email practices.

As her national lead shrinks in the final week of the race, Clinton is relying on a firewall of support in more demographically diverse swing states.

With more than 23 million ballots already cast through early voting, it’s unclear whether Trump has the time or organizational capacity to improve his standing enough over the next week to win the White House.

While Clinton’s newest email controversy may help Trump pick up support in older, whiter states like Ohio and Iowa, the Republican nominee still faces a narrow pathway to winning the 270 electoral votes — one that includes defending states like Arizona and Utah that Republicans have won for decades.

Both campaigns argued they were on the path to victory on Tuesday morning in interviews with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We’re running like we’re 20 points behind,” said Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. “We are going to win this election, but it’s important that every one of our supporters turns out.”

“We’re in great shape. We’re on offense everywhere,” said Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie. “There’s an enthusiasm gap for their voters.”

With just a week left to go before Election Day, the race for the White House remains a test of a simple question: Will the conventional rules of modern-day campaigns apply to a 2016 election that has been anything but conventional?

Clinton’s campaign has spent nearly two years developing an extensive organizing apparatus, building off the political machine that twice boosted President Barack Obama to victory. Her team has pounded the airwaves with advertising, assembled an expansive voter data file and constructed a nationwide political organization that dwarfs her opponent’s.

Her team is focused on pushing voters to the polls for early voting in critical states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, where one-third of the expected ballots have already been cast. On Tuesday, she plans to pound Trump at rallies across Florida.

The Democratic presidential nominee and her allies in a dozen battleground states have more than 4,800 people knocking on doors, making phone calls and otherwise working to support her candidacy. Clinton’s numbers, as reported in recent campaign filings, tripled those of Trump and the national and state Republican parties.

The New York businessman over the past year has largely ignored the key components of recent winning campaigns, depending instead on massive rallies and free media coverage to drive his outsider candidacy. This week, he’s devoting his most valuable resource — his time — to states where polls suggest he’s trailing Clinton by significant margins.

Trump had two rallies Monday in Michigan, a state that last went for a Republican presidential nominee in 1988. On Tuesday, he’s scheduled to appear with running mate Mike Pence in Wisconsin, which hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984.

“Her election would mire our government and our country in a constitutional crisis that we cannot afford,” he declared Monday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, pointing to the FBI’s renewed examination of Clinton’s email practices as evidence the former secretary of state might face a criminal trial as president.

Clinton, defending herself from the new FBI examination, focused Monday on battleground Ohio, a state Trump’s team concedes he must win and where he shows signs of a possible victory.

“There is no case here,” Clinton insisted. “Most people have decided a long time ago what they think about all this.”

Later in the day, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook decried what he called a “blatant double standard” following a CNBC report that FBI Director James Comey opposed releasing details about possible Russian interference in the U.S. election because it was too close to Election Day. Comey issued a letter to congressional leaders on Friday about the FBI’s renewed interest in Clinton’s email.

The AP has not confirmed the CNBC report, and the FBI declined comment Monday.

Meanwhile, the ongoing mystery of Trump’s tax returns arose again. The New York Times reported Monday night that in the 1990s, Trump avoided paying potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes in a way even his own lawyers considered questionable, using a maneuver Congress explicitly banned in 2004. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Trump’s approach was appropriate.

As for Trump’s charge that a Clinton election might prompt “a constitutional crisis,” the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel said in 1973 that criminally prosecuting a president would unconstitutionally undermine the executive branch. A 2000 memo reached a similar conclusion. Presidents can face civil lawsuits.

(Copyright (c) 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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