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Clinton plots final push as race tightens

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Hillary Clinton saturated the airwaves and deployed star surrogates to battleground states Thursday, looking to snuff-out an eleventh-hour insurgency that has put Donald Trump at the gates of the White House.

[WASHINGTON] Hillary Clinton saturated the airwaves and deployed star surrogates to battleground states Thursday, looking to snuff-out an eleventh-hour insurgency that has put Donald Trump at the gates of the White House.

As a slew of polls showed the race tightening, President Barack Obama shuttled into Florida for multiple rallies aimed at firing up the Democratic base and turning out the vote for Mrs Clinton in a must-win state.

A CBS/New York Times nationwide survey showed Mrs Clinton's lead at 45 per cent against Mr Trump's 42 per cent, a sign the bombastic mogul is winning over once-wary Republican voters.

After months of vitriolic and turbulent campaigning, political tribalism appears to be returning to the fore in the deeply divided nation ahead of Election Day on Nov 8.

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"This will be a close race and you cannot take it for granted," Mr Obama warned supporters in Jacksonville, painting an apocalyptic vision of what Trump would mean for American democracy.

The Democrats' last stand will come in Philadelphia on the eve of the election - a joint rally binding the Clintons and Obamas, America's two most powerful political dynasties.

Mrs Clinton will be joined by her husband Bill Clinton, President Obama and 2016's most potent campaigner, First Lady Michelle Obama.

For sure the state of Pennsylvania is a firewall for the Clinton campaign, a Trump win there would be a giant step toward becoming the 45th president.

But a rally in Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love - sends an unmistakable message: Mr Trump is not just a bad presidential candidate but a threat to the Republic.

It was here that the United States constitution came into being in in 1787.

Melania Trump, the Slovenian-born former model who could become America's first foreign-born first lady in two centuries, also travelled to the state Thursday for her first solo campaign appearance.

"He certainly knows how to shake things up, doesn't he?" she said of her husband's incendiary campaign.

Mr Trump's third wife insisted her husband, with whom she lives in opulence, was running to improve the lives of suffering workers and struggling parents.

"Every time my husband learned of a factory closing in Ohio or North Carolina or here in Pennsylvania I saw him get very upset," she said, reeling off three key swing states.

Profound Republican skepticism about Mr Trump's controversial candidacy appears to be ebbing.

Despite the Manhattan real estate mogul's boasts about sexual assault and allegations of groping by about a dozen women, white women are now evenly split between the two candidates, the CBS poll showed.

Similarly, Mrs Clinton's trouble with the FBI appears to have dissuaded few Democrats, with only eight per cent saying it would make them less likely to vote for the former secretary of state.

With the campaign now in its final stages, each candidate is making final arguments to voters, crisscrossing battleground states and carpet-bombing the airwaves with high-priced ads.

But neither wants to make a mistake and the race has taken on a frenetic yet formulaic quality.

Even Mr Trump is sticking to the Teleprompter and avoiding his most explosive rhetoric as the campaign winds down.

"Nice and cool. Right? Stay on point, Donald, stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald - nice and easy," the 70-year-old billionaire said out loud during a rally in Florida.

Instead he has warned voters that a Clinton presidency would be overshadowed by indictments, and renewed his vow to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington.

Mr Trump has ridden the aftershocks of the Great Recession and waves of antipathy toward the political elite to the gates of the White House.

"Democrats are quite right to be nervous about the outcome," said a team of political analysts at the University of Virginia.

But, they added, there was no "compelling argument" that the race favours Mr Trump or is even a toss-up.

Financial markets have lurched as the race has tightened - trying to "price-in" a Trump victory that they had long thought impossible.

Both candidates are already planning for a favourable outcome on Election Night.

Mr Trump's campaign said Wednesday its invitation-only "victory party" will be held at the Hilton Midtown hotel in New York, a short distance from Trump Tower.

Mrs Clinton has booked the glass-enclosed Jacob K Javits Convention Center, also in New York - a wink to the "glass ceiling" she would be breaking as the first woman elected to the White House.

As Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton try to energise their base and mop up as many votes as possible, attention is increasingly turning to the political landscape after the election.

The Nov 8 polls will not only decide who wins the White House, but the scale of the new president's mandate and who controls Congress.

Mrs Clinton will want to run up a massive margin to silence her legions of virulent critics and put Mr Trump's unfounded allegations of vote rigging to bed.

Republicans are strongly favoured to retain control of the House of Representatives, but a renewed majority in the Senate is less clear.

AFP

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