Democrat Hillary Clinton hits the campaign trail Thursday with Michelle Obama, surprise star of the 2016 White House race, as the former and current first ladies fight to lock in battleground states ahead of November’s election.
Obama has emerged as a compelling force in the hard-fought campaign, delivering powerful arguments against Republican Donald Trump and in support of Clinton’s bid to become the first female president in US history.
But Michelle and Hillary will join forces on the trail for the first time when they headline a rally at a university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a key swing state where early voting is underway.
The 52-year-old wife of President Barack Obama has energized the Democratic camp with a series of speeches taking Trump to task for his strident rhetoric and for what she brands his “frightening” attitude towards women
And in the closing two weeks of the unprecedented race, Clinton is capitalizing on one of the most popular Democrats in America to help make her case.
Clinton holds the momentum as the clock ticks down to November 8, the polls crediting her with a compelling lead over Trump, but her Republican rival has pledged to pour millions more of his own dollars into his teetering White House bid.
The latest rolling poll average compiled by tracker RealClearPolitics showed Clinton with a 5.4 point lead in a national race against Trump and two outsiders — pointing to a likely electoral college victory.
“I feel really good, energized, working hard,” the former secretary of state told reporters aboard her plane Wednesday, her 69th birthday.
“We built this campaign over a year and a half, now we see the results of all that hard work.”
Trump’s standing has been hit hard, particularly among female voters, since this month’s release of a 2005 video in which he boasts that his celebrity allows him to grope women with impunity.
But the 70-year-old Manhattan real estate mogul took heart from a new survey that shows him with a two-point lead in early-voting Florida, a state where presidential races are often won and lost.
“We are going to have, I think, a tremendous victory,” he told CNN.
Pressed on whether he’ll open his own wallet to match an onslaught of Clinton ads, Trump said he will have spent $100 million of his own money by Election Day, a sum which would imply him digging much deeper than he has so far.
– Polls narrow –
On Friday President Obama will campaign for Clinton in Florida — a state he won, albeit narrowly, in both 2008 and 2012.
A Bloomberg poll out Wednesday put Trump up 45 to 43 percent among likely voters in the Sunshine State, where Clinton has been campaigning, a close margin in what is a must-win state for him.
The RealClearPolitics poll average still puts Clinton ahead in the state by 1.6 percentage points.
But Bloomberg’s survey shows Trump doing somewhat better than Clinton with independents, who may hold the key to victory in a state that was famously deadlocked in 2000, when the Supreme Court decided the outcome, giving the win to George W. Bush.
Trump also appears to have clawed back ground in Nevada, where a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has the western state in a dead heat.
And the provocative billionaire may have found a useful card to play in the final hand: Obamacare.
Republicans have attacked the outgoing president’s signature health care reform since it was passed, but they have found new traction after officials confirmed this week that voters’ premiums will jump an average of 25 percent next year.
“Real change begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare, and Hillary wants to double up and triple up. What a disgusting situation,” Trump said.
“Job-killing Obamacare is just one more way the system is rigged. System is rigged, folks,” he told cheering supporters in North Carolina.
North Carolina voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, but the southern state has been leaning Democratic in the current White House race.
Clinton is relying on strong turnout from the state’s substantial African-American population, and a rally featuring Michelle Obama could inspire them to head to polling stations.
Clinton holds a two-percent lead there and the state’s Republican leaders worry that Trump’s slow collapse will hurt them in congressional races.