Clinton’s campaign taps star power as Trump goes it alone
CLEVELAND (AP) — Hillary Clinton dispatched musical and political celebrities across battleground states Friday to try to energize Democrats in what’s become an increasingly competitive race. Donald Trump, meanwhile, defended his go-it-alone approach.
The Democratic presidential nominee wrapped up a day of campaign stops at a packed, star-studded concert in Cleveland. Standing alongside singer Beyonce and her husband, rapper Jay Z, on a brightly lit stage at the Wolstein Center, Clinton lavished praise on the celebrity couple and asked thousands of cheering fans their votes.
“Please take this energy out with you,” she said, rattling off the address of an early voting location. “Help us win Ohio.”
Trump bragged that he didn’t need stars to draw thousands to his events.
“I didn’t have to bring J-Lo or Jay Z,” he told a crowded rally Friday night in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “I am here all by myself. Just me. No guitar, no piano, no nothing.”
Trump, whose controversial campaign has divided the Republican Party, has appeared with a ragtag group of supporters including former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight. An event with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie scheduled for Saturday was canceled after two of his top aides were found guilty Friday on all counts for their roles in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal.
Trump and Clinton will be campaigning in Florida on Saturday, last-ditch efforts to win support in a state where early voting has already exceeded 2012 levels. Clinton’s team was encouraged by strong Latino turnout, particularly around Miami. But the Democrats have seen their chances decline in Ohio, a key battleground state that’s been leaning toward Trump, and New Hampshire, where Clinton’s numbers are weakening.
Clinton’s campaign has hosted a series of free concerts designed to drum up enthusiasm for her bid, particularly among millennials and minority voters. Rocker Bon Jovi and R&B singer Ne-Yo rallied voters in North Carolina, while singer/actress Jennifer Lopez took the stage in Miami and singer Steve Wonder was performing in Philadelphia.
On Saturday night, Clinton will host a concert with pop star Katy Perry in Philadelphia, then return to the city on Monday for a joint rally with President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. Pennsylvania is a state where Clinton has long had a solid lead; it has not voted for a Republican in six presidential elections.
The celebrity firepower only adds to what’s an already deep bench of political surrogates eager to campaign for Clinton. On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in Wisconsin, Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa, and President Obama in North Carolina.
Describing Election Day as a “make or break moment,” Clinton predicted war and discord in a Trump administration, repurposing a riff often used in the primaries, where she encouraged voters to “imagine a tomorrow” filled with campaign promises like debt-free college, universal early childhood education and paid family leave.
Clinton invited voters to “imagine its Donald Trump standing in front of the Capitol.”
“Imagine how easily it could be that Donald Trump would feel insulted and start a real war — not just a Twitter war,” she said, adding, “Everywhere he goes he leaves people behind.”
Trump told voters in a new ad that they were “the only force strong enough to save our country” from a “corrupt political machine.”
He spent Friday on a tour of rural areas, hoping to boost turnout among the voters drawn to his promise to bring back a lost America. He started his day in Atkinson, New Hampshire, population 6,800 and almost 98 percent white, according to the Census Bureau. From there, he was bound for Wilmington, Ohio, another overwhelmingly white town where just 13 percent of its 12,500 residents have a college degree.
Speaking more than 2,000 miles from the Mexican border, Trump drew loud cheers in Atkinson when he vowed to build a massive wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The crowd booed when he contended that Clinton supports open borders.
“Her plans would mean generations of terrorism, extremism and radicalism spreading into your schools and through your communities,” Trump declared.
In spite of a close race in national polling, Trump’s path to victory remains narrow. His campaign is increasingly looking to make up for losses among suburban voters, particularly college-educated women, by attracting new voters in out-of-the-way places.
But with polls tightening across battleground states, Democrats are taking little for granted. Hillary Clinton made a Friday afternoon stop in Detroit, Bill Clinton worked to drive up turnout in Colorado, and Vice President Joe Biden was going to Wisconsin -- all states Clinton was thought to have locked up weeks ago.
Obama halted an afternoon speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to defend a pro-Trump protester who was chanting the Republican nominee’s name.
The Democratic president told the crowd to “sit down and be quiet.” He defended the man’s right to free speech. The protester was eventually escorted out of the venue.
“If we lose focus, we could have problems,” Obama said.
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Kathleen Hennessey in Washington and Josh Lederman in Fayetteville, North Carolina, contributed to this report.