[WASHINGTON] Hillary Clinton rebounded from her bout with pneumonia to campaign in North Carolina Thursday, aiming to stake a claim on the state's Electoral College votes as polls show Donald Trump closing the gap with her in other battleground states.
With new polls showing Mr Trump edging past Mrs Clinton in Ohio and Iowa, Mrs Clinton is looking to expand her electoral map to states like North Carolina, which has been evolving into a swing state after decades as reliably Republican in presidential elections.
"I've always said this was going to be a tight race," Mrs Clinton said at a news conference following a speech to a supportive crowd in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Mr Trump earlier Thursday spoke at the Economic Club of New York, where he laid out a blueprint that he said would create 25 million new jobs in a decade, more than three times as many as created since 2006. He then headed to a rally in New Hampshire, another swing state in the 2016 election.
Both campaigns are targeting roughly a dozen states with a combined 164 electoral votes that potentially could swing the election. A candidate needs 270 Electoral College votes to win the election and all but two states award them on a statewide winner-take-all basis.
President Barack Obama won North Carolina's 15 electoral votes in 2008, but lost the state to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. Polling suggests Mrs Clinton has a chance to recapture the state because of demographic shifts, some Republicans' concerns about Mr Trump and a backlash against state and local Republicans for a law seen as discriminatory toward transgender individuals. This week, the NCAA announced it will pull championship events from the state in response.
"North Carolina has not always been, but has emerged as, a bonafide battleground state this year, said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill. "We think we can compete there."
While Mrs Clinton has campaigned before in the state, including in her first joint event with Obama, Thursday was her first stop in Greensboro.
"The Clinton campaign may think North Carolina is particularly fertile ground for flipping a 2012 state that Obama lost to a Democratic state, and making the plausible map in which Mr Trump gets to 270 really difficult to come up with" said David Holian, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, referring to the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
In some states, Republicans consider Mr Trump to be a drag on local candidates, while in North Carolina, the local races may actually serve as a drag on Mr Trump, Prof Holian said.
Mrs Clinton used her absence from active campaigning since Sunday to reinforce her message to a supportive crowd in Greensboro, saying the time off gave her a chance to focus on the issues of supporting and protecting working families.
"Sitting at home was pretty much the last place I wanted to be," she said, but "having a few days to myself was actually a gift."
At her news conference later, Mrs Clinton said she agreed that her campaign should have been quicker to release information about her illness, which was only disclosed after she had to abruptly leave a Sept 11 commemoration ceremony in New York.
She and Mr Trump released reports from their physicians on Wednesday giving some details about their health. Both were pronounced by their doctors to be fit to serve as president.