PHILADELPHIA, United States: With polls giving her the edge on Election Day, Democratic White House nominee Hillary Clinton said late Saturday (Sunday in Manila) that she planned to work hard to see her party make gains in Congress.
Speaking to reporters aboard her campaign plane, the 68-year-old former secretary of state said she no longer wished to respond to the attacks or provocations of her opponent Donald Trump in the run-up to the November 8 vote.
The 70-year-old Republican billionaire, making what his team had billed as a key policy speech laying out his plans for the first 100 days of his presidency, did hit on some key issues, vowing to create 25 million jobs over a decade and cut middle-class taxes.
But he also angrily pledged to sue the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct – an issue that has dogged his candidacy in recent weeks and put Clinton in the driver’s seat with just over two weeks to go in the campaign.
Barnstorming through key swing states on Saturday, the candidates provided a study in contrast – Clinton was the picture of optimism and inclusion, while Trump lobbed scathing attacks at his critics, including his female accusers, the media and Clinton herself.
“We’re talking about what’s at stake in the election, drawing contrast, but we’re giving people something to vote for – not just against,” said Clinton.
“As we’re traveling in these last 17 days, we’re going to be emphasizing the importance of electing Democrats down the ballot,” she added, determined to capitalize on the divisions in the Republican Party sparked by Trump’s White House run.
On Election Day, Americans will choose a new president to succeed Barack Obama, as well as a third of the 100 senators and all 435 members of the House of Representatives, who serve two-year terms.
Both houses of Congress are currently under Republican control, but the Democrats believe a changing of the guard in the Senate is within reach.
Remaining cautious on the eventual election result but noting “really encouraging signs” about turnout, Clinton said she was prepared to finish the campaign without worrying about her unorthodox opponent.
“I debated him for four and a half hours. I don’t even think about responding to him anymore,” she said in between two campaign stops in Pennsylvania.
“He can say whatever he wants, he can run his campaign however he wants to,” Clinton added.
“I’m going to let the American people decide between what he offers and what we offer.”
‘All of these liars’
Trump, who has dropped in the polls since a number of women have come forward with allegations that he groped or forcibly kissed them, looked to reset his flailing campaign in Gettysburg.
The historic battlefield town, also in Pennsylvania, is where Abraham Lincoln delivered his key Civil War speech to try to unite the nation.
“Change has to come from outside our very broken system,” Trump told a room of several hundred supporters, hitting on many of his usual stump speech themes – immigration, trade, congressional term limits and his call for Obamacare to be repealed.
“Hillary Clinton is not running against me, she’s running against change,” he said.
The 70-year-old Manhattan real estate mogul invoked the legacy of Lincoln, saying the nation should look to heal sharp divides.
He even repeatedly used the words of the late president to champion government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
But Trump also differed sharply from the 19th century leader celebrated for preserving the Union, unleashing fresh attacks on his critics, threatening to sue the “liars” who have accused him of sexual assault and saying Clinton should have been barred from running for office at all.
“The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” Trump said to cheers.
He revisited his claims of vote “rigging” – comments that have outraged even fellow Republicans and drawn scorn from President Barack Obama for breaking with political decorum – and blamed the media for his dip in the polls.
‘Anger is not a plan’
Clinton, who is vying to become America’s first female president, mocked Trump, saying he went to “one of the most extraordinary places in American history and basically said if he’s president, he’ll spend his time suing women who have made charges against him based on his behavior.”
“A lot of Republicans have had the grit and the guts to stand up and say ‘He does not represent me,’” she said earlier in the day in Pittsburgh. “Anger is not a plan.”
Clinton is leading in the national polls by an average of more than 5.3 percentage points in a two- or four-way contest, according to RealClearPolitics.
She is also ahead in 10 of the 13 battleground states, notably Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.