Trump, Clinton in all-out battle for New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Donald Trump is barnstorming New Hampshire in a last-ditch effort to grab the state’s four Electoral College votes, a critical piece of his path to victory.

“We’re going to have a great, great night on Tuesday in New Hampshire,” Trump declared Friday at a rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire. “Whoever wins New Hampshire is going to win.”

Hillary Clinton is hitting right back, adding a stop in New Hampshire on Sunday and sending President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to the state in the election’s closing days to generate excitement. Trump, meanwhile, plans to dispatch New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and potentially running mate Mike Pence to the state this weekend.

New Hampshire’s gone for Democrats in every presidential race since 2004. But a trio of polls released Thursday — by the Boston Globe with Suffolk University, 7News with the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and WBUR with MassINC — showed Clinton and Trump virtually tied in the state. Nearly all earlier polls in New Hampshire throughout the campaign showed a Clinton lead. A highly competitive Senate race is also underway between Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicts a record turnout of 738,000 voters.

Top aides at Clinton headquarters believe New Hampshire’s large makeup of independent voters — about a third of the electorate — can be swayed by late breaking news as much as by turnout efforts. The Trump campaign sees recent news of the FBI investigating new emails potentially related to Clinton as a development in its favor. That adds to the Clinton team’s worries of voters suffering from a primary “hangover” in states like New Hampshire and Iowa. Clinton faced attacks in both states from rival Bernie Sanders — who won New Hampshire — and more than a dozen Republicans dating back to early 2015. The buildup of those attacks, the campaign believes, continues to resonate with voters.

New Hampshire remains one of Clinton’s toeholds to block Trump’s path to 270. Trump, meanwhile, would need to win New Hampshire as well as the toss-up states of Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and single congressional districts in Maine and Nebraska to capture the presidency.

Trump says a New Hampshire victory is within reach. Republicans say they have 300 paid staffers on the ground in the state for the final get-out-the-vote push. Democrats, meanwhile, say they have more than 100 staffers on the ground to turn out the vote. Trump campaigned Friday in Rockingham County, one of three Mitt Romney won in 2012, and plans to be in Manchester on Monday. Clinton plans to campaign in the same city a day earlier.

Clinton’s strategy in the closing days of the campaign has been to paint a grim picture of life in America for minorities under a Trump presidency, an approach aimed at motivating blacks and Hispanics. But that strategy is less effective in a state like New Hampshire, where the electorate is overwhelmingly white.

And of New Hampshire’s 919,000 registered voters, more than one-third aren’t affiliated with a political party, according to early October numbers. Democrats make up 271,000 and Republicans make up 295,000. That doesn’t include voters who will register on Election Day.

In some areas, Democrats say they’re still seeing a lack of enthusiasm for Clinton among Sanders supporters. Clinton handily lost the primary contest to Sanders, while Trump easily won the New Hampshire primary against roughly a dozen opponents.

In New Hampshire’s northern-most county, Coos, Democratic chair Emily Jacobs said many Sanders supporters she knows are writing in Green Party candidate Jill Stein or not voting. Coos County holds only about 16,000 votes and went for Obama twice. But Trump’s message on jobs and trade appears to be resonating in the economically depressed area.

“We are definitely Trump-dominated in Coos County, that’s for sure,” Jacobs said.

But Mike Vlacich, Clinton’s state director and a seasoned New Hampshire political operative, said he expects Democrats to come out strongly for Clinton. Two October polls from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center show Clinton with the support of nearly 90 percent of Democrats. Vlacich said he has confidence in the Democrats’ organization heading into the final days.

“This campaign is largely now in the hands of our volunteers and voters,” Vlacich said. “We’re comfortable in the organization we’ve built.”

 

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