Tuesday 20 February 2018

'This is it, folks' - final rally call by candidates as race enters tense final hours

Hillary Clinton waits backstage before a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Hillary Clinton waits backstage before a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Kevin Doyle in New York

'I'd step aside and let it happen. No way I'd take a bullet for that woman. I hate her.'

It's just another barstool view of Hillary Clinton but the fact that it comes from a member of the Boston Police Department makes it stark.

The officer has no qualms about sharing his vitriol with a journalist, or the entire pub in a raised voice for that matter.

He's voting Donald Trump because the Clintons are, he says, the evil manifestation of a broken system. "She a criminal. She should be in jail," the policeman argues, just hours after the Democratic candidate was cleared by the FBI.

There's no middle-ground in America anymore. Words such as 'unity' and 'together' that we usually associate with election season have been replaced by a narrative of hate and intolerance. The latest line of attack from Trump's supporters is on the early voting system that operates in some states.

It feeds into the idea that the election is "rigged" and threatens to turn the democracy that the US is built on into another casualty of Election 2016.

The reason Trump is so concerned about voters getting out early lies in the figures. Statistics from Florida, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona all show a significant increase in the "sleeping giant" of Latin-American voters in the 30 million votes already counted. As many on one million of the 6.2 million votes cast in the key battleground of Florida were by the Hispanic population, which is a 75pc increase from 2012.

These minorities are likely to be Clinton voters who can't abide the erratic and cruel outbursts from Trump.

But there are claims of dirty tricks on the Republican side too, with one source saying they were aware of voters being told they can vote by text message in order to steer them off course.

Clinton tried to shift her message away from the rows, though, as she headed into the final hours of what for her has been a 575-day campaign. Her rallying call is that she will be a president for everybody.

The former first lady has also called in the help, yet again, of Khizr Khan. He's the Gold Star father who became involved a very public spat with Donald Trump over the summer. "Would Muslims have a place in your America? Would Latinos have a place in your America? Would African-Americans have a place in your America, Donald Trump? Would anyone who isn't you have a place in your America? Well, thankfully, Mr Trump, this isn't your America," Khan said at a New Hampshire event.

Clinton hasn't mentioned the fact the FBI has dropped its latest investigation into her emails, although plenty of her so-called 'surrogates' have been all over US television declaring it the end of the issue.

But Trump doesn't think so and is using his final speeches to reinforce the idea that she is a weak and failed candidate. He hit seven states on Sunday alone. So packed is his scheduled that he was two and a half hours late for a rally in Virginia yesterday, arriving at midnight.

"Hillary right now, she's fast asleep, she's sleeping beautifully," he said. "We'll call this the midnight special speech."

The venue was supposed to hold 2,200 people but the final head count was closer to 5,000. People had queued from 8am to get a glimpse of the man many wrote off as a joke candidate.

The conspiracy theories he espouses are not fantasy to a large portion of the population.

"I believe he runs a business and this country needs to be run like a business. She has some issues with her emails and Benghazi. She hasn't answered any of the questions yet. Donald Trump can easily release his tax statements. I'm sure he's not hiding anything there but she seems to have something to hide," says Todd Metro.

The well-spoken New Yorker's straightforward assessment of the situation is reflective of the middle-ground vote that doesn't like Trump but doesn't trust Clinton. The system is broken and many Americans believe the only option for fixing it is to have Trump smash it to pieces and then they will be able to start again.

Clinton supporters hope enough people will fear that much change and go for the safe option. She shared a stage in Philadelphia last night with President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.

It was the image she wanted beamed across the America as 120 million people cast their ballot.

Trump signed off in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His final message: "This is it folks. We will never have another opportunity."

He told crowds it is "time to reject the media and political elite who have bled our country dry".

And now the roadshow diverts back to New York where there will be just 18 blocks separating the two candidates as the results role in. They will be glued to televisions like the rest of the world. The Dow Jones jumped more than 250 points yesterday as the stock market grew in confidence that Clinton will win the marginal contests.

But if she does hold on, it shouldn't absolve America from a different kind of judgment day.

If Trump wins, all bets are off.

Irish Independent

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