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Clinton: upbeat, smiling, and sprinting to the end

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - 06:45

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In a red pantsuit and full of smiles, Hillary Clinton embarked on a marathon final day of campaigning on Monday covering three states and four cities - and featuring two presidents, one rock Boss and Lady Gaga.

[ALLENDALE, United States] In a red pantsuit and full of smiles, Hillary Clinton embarked on a marathon final day of campaigning on Monday covering three states and four cities - and featuring two presidents, one rock Boss and Lady Gaga.

The 69-year-old Clinton is used to epic travel days - as secretary of state, she logged nearly a million miles on the road.

On Monday, about 3,200km were ahead of her when she arrived at the Westchester County airport near her home in the New York suburbs.

Destinations: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Allendale, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Raleigh, North Carolina - all swing states, all vital to secure a historic win Tuesday that would make Mrs Clinton America's first woman president.

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The Democrat is looking to lock in key battleground states to block any path her Republican opponent Donald Trump might have to the White House.

Mrs Clinton was chatting on her smartphone with her granddaughter Charlotte as she arrived at the airport at about 10.00am. She was not expected to return until after 3.00am Tuesday.

"I have some work to bring the country together," she told reporters as she boarded a flight to Pittsburgh, a Democratic bastion.

Mrs Clinton spoke freely with the traveling press on board the Boeing 757 - emblazoned with an "H" and the slogan "Stronger Together" - that has been her second home since September.

She couldn't refrain from a jab at her Republican rival whose campaign, she said, had exacerbated painful divisions in American society.

But the overall tone was resolutely upbeat.

"I really do want to be the president for everybody - people who vote for me, people who vote against me," she said.

"We're just going to work until the last vote is counted."

About 2,500 people flocked to the campus of the University of Pittsburgh for Mrs Clinton's first rally - an outdoor event on a sunny autumn day.

"Hello, Pittsburgh!" Mrs Clinton said in her usual rally greeting.

She then delivered her classic stump speech, which lasted about 20 minutes.

"Tomorrow is the election but that is just the beginning. We have to heal this country, we have to bring people together, listen and respect each other," she said.

Mrs Clinton briefly deviated from protocol by going to shake hands with some of those gathered in the streets outside the venue.

"Great rally here at Pitt," she said. "Feels good."

And that was that - her long motorcade of Secret Service agents, aides, and journalists headed back to the airport. Next stop: Michigan.

At the Pittsburgh rally , Clinton supporter Rhonda Young - a 58-year-old black retiree - admitted the last few days had been "discouraging," with Mr Trump climbing in the polls.

"I had to regroup, stay focused," Ms Young told AFP. "I got it down in my calendar - on November 9, I have 'Hillary is the president'."

Ms Young admitted her 23-year-old daughter still wanted to write in the name of Mrs Clinton's onetime rival Bernie Sanders when she votes on Tuesday.

"It's just time for a woman to run the United States of America," Ms Young said. "We need someone with a mother's heart that's diplomatic that can get along with other countries."

Adriana Mata, who brought her daughter to the rally, said Mrs Clinton was the only "sane alternative."

If Mrs Clinton is worried, it doesn't show. Her staff added a few rallies to her final days on the trail - but not as many as Mr Trump tacked on.

She headed to Grand Valley State University in Allendale, outside Grand Rapids, where Mrs Trump will close out his campaign with a late night rally. The sun was still shining. More than 4,500 people turned out.

The Democrat's path to victory goes through the American Rust Belt - states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, which voted for Barack Obama but are not as enthusiastic about Mrs Clinton.

"I want each and every one of you to be thinking through about all the issues you care about because although my name and my opponent's name will be on the ballot, those issues and those values are on the ballot as well," she said.

After Michigan, it's back to Pennsylvania for a Philadelphia blowout rally heavy with symbolism: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle will both be there, along with Mrs Clinton's husband, former president Bill.

Rockers Bruce Springsteen, The Boss himself, and Jon Bon Jovi will be there too.

And then Mrs Clinton winds up with a midnight rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, another key battleground, before returning to her home in Chappaqua, near New York City, for Election Day.

Bon Jovi will perform in Raleigh as well, and Mrs Clinton - who has been joined by A-listers from Beyonce and Jay Z to Katy Perry in recent days - added one last guest: Lady Gaga.

Making her closing address to Americans on the eve of the vote, the Democratic nominee pledged as president to unify a country divided by one of the bitterest campaigns in its history.

"I think we can all agree, it's been a long campaign," Mrs Clinton says in a two-minute video message set to air Monday night during popular prime-time shows The Voice and Kevin Can Wait - reaching an estimated 20 million viewers.

"I will work my heart out as president to make life better for you and your family," she said.

"So tonight I'm asking for your vote and tomorrow, let's make history together."

AFP

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