EAU CLAIRE, United States: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton launched bitter attacks on each other’s character Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as a new poll suggested the White House race has tightened in the final week.
Trump stormed into Democratic territory in Wisconsin to try to use suspicion generated by an FBI probe into Clinton’s emails to open an unlikely path to victory on November 8.
But, with political tension spilling over into financial markets, 69-year-old Clinton was determined not to lose her advantage, firing up Florida crowds with attacks on Trump’s attitude to women.
Polling forecasts suggest the 70-year-old Republican property mogul faces a battle to win enough states to secure an electoral college victory over his Democratic rival.
But he received a boost when an ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll showed him leading Clinton, 46 percent to 45 percent.
He boasted about the new numbers as he addressed a raucous crowd – chanting “Lock her up!” and “Drain the swamp!” – in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before turning the knife.
“The Clinton’s are the sordid past and we will be the bright and clean future,” he announced, to rapturous roars.
But if Clinton was rattled by the poll – or by the renewed interest in her email server – she did not show it at a barnstorming rally in the swing state of Florida.
‘Insults half the population’
Clinton was introduced by Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe whom Trump, then the owner of the pageant, publicly humiliated by mocking her post-victory weight gain.
“Can we just stop for a minute and reflect on the absurdity of Donald Trump finding fault with Miss Universe?” Clinton snorted.
Trump’s doctor says he is more than overweight at 236 pounds (107 kilograms).
“What about our girls? What happens to their confidence, their sense of self-worth?” she demanded, warning against a president “who insults more than half the population.”
And she pivoted to the notorious tape where Trump is overheard on a hot mic bragging about being able to grope women and get away with 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,’” Clinton said. Trump denies these allegations.
The close poll spooked the markets, which had expected the former secretary of State to comfortably defeat a populist who economists fear could plunge the world into recession.
US stocks closed down 0.7 percent 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 the popular vote, in order to win the White House, Trump must take at least one normally Democratic state, the swing states and the Republican heartland.
Pollster TargetSmart forecast that Clinton could win Florida – and effectively bar Trump any route to the White House – by a massive eight point margin, 48 to 40 percent.