WASHINGTON, D.C.: Donald Trump urged Americans Monday (Tuesday in Manila) to “rise above the noise” of the caustic 2016 race and elect him president, as he insisted he is winning against Hillary Clinton despite polls that show the opposite.
Casting the election as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to reject the nation’s political elite, the provocative Republican billionaire insisted he was the voice of the American everyman and essentially urged voters to ignore his 18-month candidacy of overheated rhetoric.
“You’ve got to get out and vote,” Trump told an enthusiastic crowd in Tampa, Florida, as early voting kicked off in the state barely two weeks before Election Day November 8.
“I’m asking the American people to rise above the noise and the clutter and to embrace the faith and optimism that is… the most crucial ingredient of the American character.”
But instead of treading the optimistic high ground, he swiftly returned to rounding on Clinton, decrying the “phony polls” that show him trailing.
“Our system is rigged,” he said, as he berated Clinton for using a private email server and highlighted revelations in Monday’s Wall Street Journal that the organization of a Clinton ally paid nearly $500,000 to the political campaign of the wife of an FBI official who later helped oversee the investigation against her.
“She never had a chance of being convicted, even though everybody in this audience… knows that she’s 100 percent guilty,” he said.
Clinton, who turns 69 on Wednesday, aims to become the nation’s first female president.
She was seeking to cement her lead by conquering battlegrounds including Florida, North Carolina and Ohio where early voting has already begun, and where the race will be won or lost.
Trump, who faces an increasingly narrow path to victory amid damning revelations about his treatment of women, continued to assure his supporters that the polls were unfairly tilted towards Clinton and that he would prevail.
“We’re winning, not only Florida, but we’re going to win the whole thing,” Trump said in St. Augustine.
Residents of Chicago, Charlotte, Miami and Las Vegas are already going to polling stations to cast ballots – with initial indications suggesting a surge in early voting among Democrats.
At least seven million Americans have already voted, according to the US Elections Project.
At a Monday fundraiser in La Jolla, California, President Barack Obama acknowledged that he wants an overwhelming victory for Clinton in order to send a message that Americans were rejecting Trump’s divisive rhetoric.
“We want to win big,” Obama said. “We don’t just want to eke it out, particularly when the other guy’s already started to gripe about how the game is rigged.”