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Trump targets Democratic states after shock poll boost
[WASHINGTON] Donald Trump stormed into traditionally Democratic territory on Tuesday in a last-ditch bid to open up a path to an unlikely White House win, buoyed by a shock new poll showing him edging ahead of Hillary Clinton.
If Mrs Clinton was rattled by the dramatic tightening in the numbers a week before Election Day, she did not show it, barnstorming through key swing state Florida and once again hammering Mr Trump's attitude to women.
Forecast models still show the 70-year-old Republican property mogul facing an uphill battle to win enough states to secure an electoral college victory over the 69-year-old Democratic frontrunner on Nov 8.
But he received a boost on Tuesday when an ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll showed him leading his rival, embroiled in an FBI probe into her email history, by 46 to 45 per cent.
This was enough to spook the markets, which had expected the former secretary of state to comfortably defeat a populist Republican economists fear could plunge the world into recession.
US stocks closed down 0.7 per cent and the Vix Volatility or "fear index" jumped to its highest level since Britain voted to leave the European Union.
But no matter how close Mr Trump comes in the popular vote, in order to win the White House, he must seize at least one traditionally Democratic state as well as several swing states and the Republican heartland.
On Tuesday, that quest brought the brash billionaire to Wisconsin, which in 2012 voted 53-46 per cent to give its 10 electoral college votes to President Barack Obama and return him to the White House.
Earlier, the Manhattan real estate mogul went to the town of King of Prussia in Pennsylvania - another crucial battleground - to deliver a policy speech.
"Our tax plan will provide a 35 per cent tax cut to middle class families with two kids," he told supporters.
"Our middle class has not been properly respected. That I can tell you."
If Mr Trump can win both the safe Republican states and those considered up for grabs - itself a challenge - Wisconsin's 10 votes could put him over the 270 threshold and force Mr Obama to hand him the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But this remains a long shot. The New York Times' statistical model gives Mrs Clinton an 88 per cent chance of winning, while respected data tracking website FiveThirtyEight says she has a 74 per cent chance of victory.
Nevertheless, the tumultuous presidential race - which has of late featured footage showing Mr Trump boasting of sexual assault and claims of Russian interference in the contest - may have a few twists and turns left in store.
On Monday, Mr Trump was hit by fresh allegations in a detailed report by New York Times that he not only dodged paying income tax, but did so in a legally dubious way that has since been outlawed.
This may not be enough to turn attention away from stories about a revived FBI investigation into whether Mrs Clinton put US secrets at risk by using a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
Both ongoing scandals were bubbling under the surface when Mrs Clinton appeared in Florida to hammer Mr Trump's fitness for office and - in particular - his treatment of women.
Mrs Clinton was introduced by Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe whom Mr Trump, then the owner of the pageant, humiliated by mocking her post-victory weight gain and calling her "Miss Piggy".
"Can we just stop for a minute and reflect on the absurdity of Donald Trump finding fault with Miss Universe?" Mrs Clinton snorted. Mr Trump's doctor says he is more than overweight at 107kg.
"What about our girls? What happens to their confidence, their sense of self-worth?" Mrs Clinton demanded, warning against electing a president "who insults more than half the population".
And she pivoted to the notorious tape where Mr Trump is overheard on a hot mic bragging about being able to grope women and get away with it because he is a star.
"And I have to tell you, since that tape came out 12 women have come forward to say: 'What he said on that tape is what he did to me'," Mrs Clinton said. Mr Trump denies these allegations.
Mrs Clinton's campaign has spent three days berating FBI director James Comey for revealing to lawmakers that the bureau is looking anew at her use of a private email server while at the State Department.
Mrs Clinton and her supporters were furious that Mr Comey made his announcement without providing any new evidence of wrongdoing, but her campaign insists the scandal has not torpedoed her candidacy.
"We do not see any evidence that the Comey story has had an impact on our polling," a senior aide told reporters travelling on her plane.
"If anything, it's angered our supporters and been a motivating factor, but it doesn't seem to be affecting the overall vote," he said, writing off the new tracker results as "bad polling".
Mr Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden both hit the campaign trail for Mrs Clinton on Tuesday and have a full schedule for the week, hoping to push her past Mr Trump in the homestretch.
Mr Obama - who was in Ohio - is having what his spokesman called a "heck of a good time" making the case for Mrs Clinton, calling his full schedule "an indication of exactly how big he thinks the stakes are in this election".