HARI SREENIVASAN: Critical states along the Eastern Seaboard are echoing with campaign appeals tonight. The candidates, and top supporters, have been out in force today, as the days before the election dwindle to a final few.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
LISA DESJARDINS: This is what the scramble for votes looks like five days before Election Day: Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and President Obama, campaigning for her in Florida, both holding college rallies, both pitching to younger voters, plus, campaign manager Robby Mook on a TV talk show, “The View,” reaching out to women voters.
On the other side, Donald Trump kept up his Florida focus today, while V.P. nominee Mike Pence spoke on a farm in Iowa, going for the rural vote and with him a surprise companion, Ted Cruz, former sharp Trump rival today campaigning for his team for the first time.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-Texas): If you care about the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
LISA DESJARDINS: And aiming for conservative votes.
This as voting itself is well under way, with more than 31 million early and absentee ballots already cast. That’s about a quarter of all the votes expected this year. In general, Democrats want and usually need a big lead in early votes. That’s something they had both times President Obama won. It’s not yet clear they will get it this year.
Trump’s latest strategy to win votes? Part one, a sharply stepped-up attack on Hillary Clinton, not just talking about current FBI questions, but going much further than the FBI about what may be next.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: Here we go again with Clinton. You remember the impeachment and the problems. She is likely to be under investigation for many, many years, also likely to conclude in a criminal trial. This is not what we need in this country, folks.
LISA DESJARDINS: Top Democrats, like V.P. nominee Tim Kaine and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are pushing back strongly, saying Republicans should stop talk of possibly impeaching Clinton.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Melania Trump reached out in her first campaign event since the GOP Convention.
MELANIA TRUMP, Wife of Donald Trump: Do we want a country that respects woman and provides them with equal opportunity?
LISA DESJARDINS: But in Miami, President Obama questioned whether Mrs. Trump’s her husband truly does respect women.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Who you are, what you are doesn’t change after you occupy the Oval Office. All it does is magnify who you are. All it does is shine a spotlight on who you are. If you disrespected women before you were in office, you will disrespect women as president.
LISA DESJARDINS: And Clinton highlighted the idea of character again in North Carolina.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: Someone who thinks the lives of black people are all crime and poverty and despair, he has no idea.
LISA DESJARDINS: It is, as it has been, a race about character and whose character voters question more.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.