WASHINGTON: Republican Donald Trump delivered a call to arms for US conservatives on Friday (Saturday in Manila), urging them to vote en masse on Election Day to defeat White House rival Hillary Clinton.
The Democratic former secretary of state meanwhile met in New York with a bipartisan panel of experts to discuss issues of terrorism and national security that the next president will likely face.
Both candidates are seeking to appear presidential and fire up their supporters as the November 8 election day approaches.
Trump was the star at a Washington gathering of grassroots activists, conservative stalwart lawmakers, and leaders in the anti-abortion and religious freedom movements.
He sought to lock up a commitment from the key evangelical and social conservative voting bloc, four years after millions of them stayed home instead of supporting Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
“In a Trump administration, our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended like you’ve never seen before,” Trump said to a rousing ovation.
“You have to get out and vote on November 8. You didn’t vote four years ago,” he admonished the crowd. “You didn’t vote.”
Trump’s attendance at the Values Voter Summit highlights how conservatives want social issues like abortion discussed in the presidential campaign.
Trump is under pressure to convince these activists of his own conservative values.
Trump however largely steered clear of the sensitive issue of abortion, perhaps realizing that he also needs to court moderate and independent voters as he trails Clinton in most polls.
‘Birther’ no more?
In that vein, his campaign has taken steps to distance the Republican nominee from his years-long propagation of the “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States.
“He believes President Obama was born here… He was born in Hawaii,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN.
Her comments came a day after Trump surrogate and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani made similar statements.
Trump himself has so far refused to clearly acknowledge the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency.
The real estate magnate was the most prominent early proponent of a theory that Obama, the nation’s first black president, was not born in the United States and therefore, under the US Constitution, ineligible to be commander in chief.
Trump embraced the long-debunked “birther movement” in early 2011, eager to push the theory as a way to connect with white conservatives and catapult himself to prominence while he mulled his own run for the White House.
Trump also blasted Clinton for a second straight day as a “trigger-happy” top diplomat who emboldened North Korea into conducting yet another nuclear test and put Iran on the path to atomic weapons.
Speaking later in Florida he derided Clinton as “the candidate of the past,” and promised that a Trump administration would dramatically strengthen the US military and pursue trade policies that would keep jobs at home.
“The history book is closing on the failed politicians of yesterday,” Trump proclaimed. “A new chapter is beginning, and this chapter will be authored by you, the American people.”
Paying respects on 9/11
Clinton meanwhile held a working session on terrorism and national security with a group of experts that included ousted former CIA director David Petraeus, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan John Allen and former National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen.
“I asked them to join me for a candid conversation about some of the most challenging issues facing our country because I believe that America’s national security must be the top priority for our next president,” she said after the meeting.
“I support more special forces, enablers and trainers, as needed, intelligence gathering and reconnaissance” in the battle against jihadists, she said.
The meeting came two days before the country marks the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
Clinton, who at the time was a US senator representing New York, will attend the ceremony Sunday at Ground Zero “to pay her respects,” a campaign aide said.
Separately, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence released 10 years of tax returns, even though his billionaire boss refuses to do so.
The Trump campaign said that the candidate “plans to release his tax returns upon completion of a routine audit.”
The Clinton campaign quickly fired back. “Why won’t Trump release his tax returns and what is he hiding?” it asked in a statement, suggesting that Trump fears showing that he is worth less than he claims, that he has paid no income tax in years, and that he is deeply in debt.