- Clinton is betting on the ground game her campaign has built to be a firewall against Trump
- Her campaign is doing well in early voting returns thus far
Over the past 18 months, the Democratic nominee has built an impressive campaign infrastructure that has dwarfed her GOP opponent, Donald Trump, on fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts. The sudden revival of Clinton’s private email server as a top campaign issue is emerging as the ultimate test of whether all that work will pay off next week and whether her core message — that she is the only candidate fit to be president — will resonate.
FBI Director James Comey blindsided the Clinton campaign Friday by telling lawmakers newly discovered emails could be pertinent to the probe into the private server. The Clinton campaign and her surrogates are furious that the announcement came so close to the election while Trump and his allies are celebrating the fresh ammunition after spending weeks on defense.
Campaigning in Kent, Ohio, on Monday, Clinton brushed away the investigation, saying voters have already made up their minds on the email issue.
“I think most people have decided a long time ago what they think about all this,” Clinton said. “Now, what people are focused on is choosing the next president and commander and chief of the United States of America.”
If the Trump campaign has run a thoroughly unconventional campaign, with little care for the traditional rules of politics and relatively bare-bones infrastructure, the Clinton operation has devoted much of its time and resources to building out a robust ground game across battleground states.
In the final weeks, Clinton has particularly touted her campaign’s Get Out the Vote and early voting campaigns, enlisting help from high-profile celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Katy Perry and Jay-Z. The campaign is hopeful that these efforts will be crucial to driving up turnout on and before Election Day.
Clinton aides cite early voting statistics as proof that while the FBI news has drawn heavy scrutiny in recent days, it has not moved the core of her support
Early voting data show that over 3.5 million people have already voted in Florida — making up nearly one quarter of all registered voters in the state — with Democrats outpacing 2012 vote-by-mail numbers. Similarly in Nevada, where nearly one-fourth of registered voters have already cast their ballot, Democrats are outpacing Republicans by nearly 30,000.
And Clinton aides say the core of their base, especially Hispanic voters, have already turned out to vote in high numbers, citing trends in Colorado, Nevada and Florida. Some top advisers believe states with robust early voting and absentee balloting, like Nevada, could essentially be decided before Election Day.
Worry in swing states
Still, the campaign is on the lookout for any signs of damage from Comey’s announcement.
In some swing states, aides acknowledge that the FBI’s renewed probe appears to have created some volatility with voters.
There is anecdotal evidence, for example, of Clinton volunteers fielding questions about the FBI’s investigation while door knocking over the weekend. On the flip side, the campaign has also seen evidence of Democrats who are now more eager to vote for Clinton as a way to rebuke the FBI.
Since Friday, Clinton and her aides have been adamant: Comey’s action is unprecedented this close to an election, and there is nothing to new to be discovered.
On Saturday in Florida, Clinton called his announcement “pretty strange.”
“In fact, it is not just strange, it is unprecedented and it is deeply troubling,” she said at a Daytona Beach rally.
And on Monday, Clinton said at two Ohio rallies that while she regrets using a private server, the FBI simply has “no case.”
Her aides are also continuing to pressure Comey. Top campaign officials held a press call on Monday in the wake of reports that the FBI director chose not to publicly comment on the Trump campaign’s potential ties to alleged efforts by Russia to meddle with the U.S. election. Campaign manager Robby Mook called the revelation a “blatant double standard.”
The campaign is getting a boost from former attorney generals as well, including General Alberto Gonzales, who said Comey exercised an “error in judgment.”
Trump, meanwhile, is lauding Comey and his announcement as often as he can.
“It took a lot of guts” for Comey to reopen the investigation, Trump said Monday in Michigan, where he was reaching for votes in the traditionally blue state. “I really disagreed with him. I was not his fan. But I’ll tell you what, what he did, he brought back his reputation.”
And while Trump has been criticized for frequently veering off message and at times missing opportunities to seize on his opponent’s vulnerabilities, Clinton has stuck to a consistent theme when it comes to Trump.
Since the beginning of the general election, the Democratic nominee has relentlessly hit Trump’s temperament and readiness to be president through ads and speeches. This calculation was made as soon as it was clear that Trump would be the GOP nominee. And a week before voters go to the polls, Clinton aides are confident that voters have had plenty of time to digest the contrasting choice that they’ve presented in the election.
Clinton continued that attack line on Monday in Ohio, questioning the businessman’s qualifications to be commander-in-chief.
Introducing Clinton at the event was Bruce Blair, a former ballistic missile launch officer.
“If I were back in the launch chair, I would have no faith in his judgment. None,” Blair said. “And I would live in constant fear of his making a bad call.”
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