WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s campaign bluntly acknowledged Sunday that the real estate mogul is trailing Hillary Clinton as the presidential race hurdles toward a close, but insisted he still has a viable path to win the White House.
With barely two weeks left and early voting underway in most of the U.S., Trump’s team said “the race is not over” and pledged to keep campaigning hard — even in states like Virginia and Pennsylvania that polls show is now safely in Clinton’s control. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway laid out a path to the requisite 270 electoral votes that goes through make-or-break states Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio.
“We are behind. She has some advantages,” Conway said Sunday. Yet she argued that Clinton’s advantages — like a slew of bold-name Democrats campaigning for her — belied her lack of true support. “The current president and first lady, vice president, all are much more popular than she can hope to be.”
She added: “We’re not giving up. We know we can win this.”
Yet even as Clinton appeared to be strengthening her lead, her campaign was careful not to declare premature victory.
“We don’t want to get ahead of our skis here,” said Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. He said the “battleground states” where both candidates are campaigning hardest “are called that for a reason.”
As part of his closing message, Trump was laying out an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days as president. Yet he undermined his own attempt to strike a high-minded tone on policy issues when he announced in the same speech that he planned to sue the numerous women who have accused him of groping and other unwanted sexual behavior.
“All of these liars will be sued once the election is over,” Trump said Saturday during an event near the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg. He added: “I look so forward to doing that.”
Asked about Trump’s remarks, Clinton told reporters between rallies Saturday in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that she was done responding to what her Republican opponent is saying as Election Day nears and would instead focus on helping elect other Democrats.
A day earlier, Clinton attacked Pennsylvania’s Republican senator, Pat Toomey, saying in Pittsburgh that he has refused to “stand up” to Trump as she praised his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty. Noting Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants and his attacks on a Muslim-American military family, she said of Toomey: “If he doesn’t have the courage to stand up to Donald Trump after all of this, then can you be sure that he will stand up for you when it counts?”
Toomey spokesman Ted Kwong said Clinton’s comments highlight McGinty’s lack of independence.
“Today is just further proof that hyper-partisan, ethically challenged Katie McGinty will be a rubber stamp for everything Hillary Clinton wants to do in Washington,” he said. “Pat Toomey has been, and will continue to be, an independent leader in the Senate on issues ranging from gun safety to ending Wall Street bailouts.”
Clinton rejected Trump’s allegation, offered without evidence, that the dozen or so women who have come forward are being prompted by her campaign or the Democratic National Committee. The accusers emerged after the former reality TV star boasted of kissing women and groping their genitals without their consent. On Saturday, an adult film actress said the billionaire kissed her and two other women on the lips “without asking for permission” when they met him after a golf tournament in 2006.
Trump has denied that all the other allegations, while insisting some of the women weren’t attractive enough for him to want to pursue. His broadside against the women Saturday came at the start of an otherwise substantive speech that sought to weave the many policy ideas he has put forward into a single, cohesive agenda.
The Republican nominee vowed to lift restrictions on domestic energy production, label China as a currency manipulator and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, familiar themes to supporters who have flocked to his rallies this year.
“This is my pledge to you, and if we follow these steps, we will once again have a government of, by and for the people,” Trump said, invoking a phrase from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Though mostly a recap of policies he’s proposed before, Trump’s speech included a few new elements, such as a freeze on hiring new federal workers and a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for immigrants who re-enter the U.S. illegally after being deported a first time. In a pledge sure to raise eyebrows on Wall Street, he said he’d block a potential merger between AT&T and media conglomerate Time Warner.
Throughout the GOP primary, Trump was criticized for shying away from detailed policy proposals. But his speech, which aides said would form the core of his closing argument to voters, underscored how the billionaire has gradually compiled a broad — if sometimes vague — policy portfolio that straddles conservative, isolationist and populist orthodoxies.
Mook spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Conway spoke on “Fox News Sunday” and on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Lederman reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey in Pennsylvania contributed to this report.