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Monday 20 January 2020

Donald Trump camp: We are behind but it's not over

Donald Trump revealed a 'first 100 days' plan for his US presidency (AP)
Donald Trump revealed a 'first 100 days' plan for his US presidency (AP)

Donald Trump's campaign has bluntly acknowledged he is trailing Hillary Clinton as the presidential race hurtles towards a close - but aides insisted he has a viable path to win.

With barely two weeks left and early voting under way in most of the US, Mr Trump's team said "the race is not over" and pledged to keep campaigning hard, even in states like Virginia and Pennsylvania that polls show as in Mrs Clinton's control.

Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway laid out a path to the requisite 270 electoral votes that goes through make-or-break states Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio.

"We are behind. She has some advantages," she said. Yet she argued that Clinton's advantages - such as a slew of bold-name Democrats campaigning for her - belied her lack of true support.

"The current president and first lady, vice president, all are much more popular than she can hope to be."

She added: "We're not giving up. We know we can win this."

Yet even as Mrs Clinton appeared to be strengthening her lead, her campaign was careful not to declare premature victory.

"We don't want to get ahead of our skis here," said campaign manager Robby Mook. He said the "battleground states" where both candidates are campaigning hardest "are called that for a reason".

As part of his closing message, Mr Trump was laying out an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days as president.

Yet he undermined his own attempt at a high-minded tone when he announced he planned to sue the women who have accused him of groping and other unwanted sexual behaviour.

"All of these liars will be sued once the election is over," he said during an event near the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg. He added: "I look so forward to doing that."

Asked about Mr Trump's remarks, Mrs Clinton said - between rallies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia - that she has given up responding to her Republican opponent as Election Day nears and would focus on helping elect other Democrats.

A day earlier, Mrs Clinton attacked Pennsylvania's Republican senator, Pat Toomey, saying in Pittsburgh that he has refused to "stand up" to Mr Trump as she praised his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty.

Noting Mr Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants and his attacks on a Muslim-American military family, she said of Mr Toomey: "If he doesn't have the courage to stand up to Donald Trump after all of this, then can you be sure that he will stand up for you when it counts?"

Toomey spokesman Ted Kwong said Mrs Clinton's comments highlight Ms McGinty's lack of independence.

"Today is just further proof that hyper-partisan, ethically challenged Katie McGinty will be a rubber stamp for everything Hillary Clinton wants to do in Washington," he said.

"Pat Toomey has been, and will continue to be, an independent leader in the Senate on issues ranging from gun safety to ending Wall Street bailouts."

Mrs Clinton rejected Mr Trump's allegation, offered without evidence, that the dozen or so women who have come forward are being prompted by her campaign or the Democratic National Committee.

The accusers emerged after the former reality TV star boasted of kissing women and groping them without consent. An adult film actress said the billionaire kissed her and two other women on the lips "without asking for permission" when they met him after a golf tournament in 2006.

Mr Trump has denied that and all the other allegations, while insisting some of the women were not attractive enough for him to want to pursue.

His broadside against the women came at the start of an otherwise substantive speech that sought to weave the many policy ideas he has put forward into a cohesive agenda.

The Republican nominee vowed to lift restrictions on domestic energy production, label China a currency manipulator and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, familiar themes to supporters.

"This is my pledge to you, and if we follow these steps, we will once again have a government of, by and for the people," Mr Trump said, invoking a phrase from president Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Though mostly a recap of policies he has proposed before, the speech included a few new elements, such as a freeze on hiring new federal workers and a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for immigrants who re-enter the US illegally after being deported.

In a pledge sure to raise eyebrows on Wall Street, he said he would block a potential merger between AT&T and media conglomerate Time Warner.

Throughout the GOP primary, Mr Trump was criticised for shying away from detailed policy proposals.

But his speech, which aides said would form the core of his closing argument to voters, underscored how the billionaire has gradually compiled a broad - if sometimes vague - policy portfolio that straddles conservative, isolationist and populist orthodoxies.


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