“Honest” and “trustworthy” are not words most Americans would use to describe the two presidential candidates — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
In a Gallup poll conducted this week, only 32 percent of Americans would describe Clinton that way, while 36 percent would use that description for Trump. Those numbers changed little from a September poll that had 34 percent of Americans looking at Clinton as honest and trustworthy and 33 percent seeing Trump like that.
The Gallup poll revealed, however, that 50 percent of Americans think Clinton “would display good judgment in a crisis,” but only 36 percent of respondents believe Trump would do the same.
In the last weekend before Tuesday’s vote, Clinton appeared on stage late Friday in Ohio at Cleveland’s Wolstein Center with hip-hop music star Jay Z and his glamorous wife, Beyonce.
Beyonce said she wants her daughter “to grow up seeing a woman lead this country and know her possibilities are limitless.”
Jay Z said Trump’s “conversation is divisive” and that is why “he cannot be our president.”
A constitutional crisis
Earlier Friday, Trump said Clinton is so bogged down in legal problems that her election would plunge the United States into a constitutional crisis. Democrat Clinton said her Republican opponent, if elected, would create dangerous uncertainty worldwide instead of the hopeful future she plans for the country.[xyz-ihs snippet=”adsense-body-ad”]President Barack Obama stepped into the political battle Friday with a full-throated defense of Clinton and a sharp denunciation of Trump.
Never before have so many conservative Republicans denounced the nominee of their own party, Obama said, “and it’s because Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to be president. He is temperamentally unsuited to be commander in chief.”
Less than 100 hours before Election Day, opinion polls showed a small and narrowing gap between the two candidates. Clinton still holds a slight edge over Trump nationally, because of her appeal among women and nonwhite voters, but her edge has shrunk since last month, making the election outcome less predictable.
In a detailed analysis of the two candidates’ current ranking in the battleground states, whose electoral votes could tip the balance when all Americans’ ballots are counted late Tuesday, The Washington Post concluded: “The electoral map is definitely moving in Donald Trump’s direction.”
In a potentially ominous backdrop to the heated campaign rhetoric, federal and state officials said Friday that they were considering the possibility that the al-Qaida terror group might try to launch an attack in the U.S. sometime before the voting Tuesday.
VOA’s national security correspondent, Jeff Seldin, said intelligence officials were warning that the states of New York, Virginia and Texas were considered possible targets. Authorities in New York expanded the police force assigned to protect the city’s annual marathon road race on Sunday, which attracts tens of thousands of runners and spectators from many countries around the world.
Trump campaigned Friday in New Hampshire, a state that had been firmly in Clinton’s column earlier, but now is considered a tossup — a race that either candidate could win.
At a rally near the Massachusetts border, Trump told his supporters a Clinton victory “would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. What a mess.”
Referring to the continuing investigation of emails to and from Clinton during her time as secretary of state, Trump asserted, “She’s likely to be under investigation for a long trial, concluding in a criminal trial. … America deserves a government that can go to work on Day 1.”
Democratic Party sues
Those charges, as well as Trump’s call for his supporters to turn up as self-appointed “election observers” in certain areas of the country, prompted the Democratic Party to file a series of lawsuits Friday accusing the Republicans of trying to intimidate and confront Clinton supporters.
A federal judge in Ohio, another one of the battleground states that appears to be switching from a Democratic lead to the Republicans, ordered the Trump campaign Friday not to intimidate voters or verbally harass them.
The judge’s order also appeared to shut down a planned exit poll — a survey of voters as they leave polling places — organized by Trump ally Roger Stone, who calls his project “Stop the Steal.”
Clinton faces no formal charges of wrongdoing arising from the email controversy. Most of those messages were stored on a private computer server that she controlled, instead of on U.S. State Department computers, and her campaign has repeatedly rebutted Trump’s contention that she acted illegally.
Meanwhile, the State Department released over 1,200 pages of additional Clinton emails Friday, under terms of a prior agreement with the Justice Department. They included mostly administrative correspondence and duplicates of previously released material, but also some messages from 2010, when the State Department and President Barack Obama’s administration were hit by the stunning and embarrassing disclosure of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks group.
A series of heavily edited emails — blacked out in places where U.S. officials wanted to keep details and identifications anonymous — discussed how Clinton should approach world leaders in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures, as well as how hard she should go after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, wrote in December 2010 that an ally had suggested Clinton formulate a response similar to: “We view this not as a ‘clever game’ of WikiLeaks but rather as a ‘criminal act’ against the United States of America. He [Assange] might think this is a clever game today but when he is prosecuted and if convicted he will move from being a clever cyber thief to a convicted criminal — and will find out that’s a whole different kind of game.”
In contrast to some of the more heated rhetoric heard frequently at rallies by both major party candidates, Obama called on the Democrats he addressed in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to show restraint when confronted by opposition.
“If you want America to stay strong and respected, then we can’t have a commander in chief who suggests that it’s OK to torture people, [who] suggests that we should ban entire religions from our country,” said Obama, critiquing Trump. The president then noticed the pro-Clinton crowd surrounding and shouting down a single protester who stood holding a pro-Trump poster.
“No, wait, wait. … Hold up! Hold up! … Listen … Everybody sit down and be quiet for a second. … I’m serious, listen up!” Obama said as he struggled to get the crowd to settle down. “You’ve got an older gentleman here who is supporting his candidate. … You don’t have to worry about him.
“First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. So, second of all, it looks like he might have served in our military [due to his clothing], and we’ve got to respect that. Third of all, he is elderly, and fourth of all, don’t boo. … Don’t boo, vote!”
Differing on economy
Clinton and Trump disagreed sharply on the economy in their separate campaign appearances Friday, just hours after the U.S. Labor Department’s monthly report showed unemployment dropped to 4.9 percent as employers added 161,000 more jobs.
“I believe our economy is really poised to take off and thrive,” Clinton said at a rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Trump told his supporters the new government data show the U.S. economy is “an absolute disaster.” He said the number of unemployed workers dropped because so many have stopped looking for work entirely, and thus are not counted by government statisticians.
Financial markets seemed to agree with Trump, with all major indexes declining again on Friday. The S&P 500, a broad measure of overall economic performance and of investors’ confidence, declined for the ninth straight day; for that benchmark index, the consecutive streak of declines is now the longest in more than 35 years.
A new national poll of voters’ feelings about the election (The New York Times/CBS News) released Friday showed that a large majority of voters are “disgusted” with both major presidential candidates, and 80 percent have been “repulsed” by the campaign thus far. Despite that, more than 36.5 million Americans have already cast their ballots — voting early in states that offer such an option, or casting absentee ballots — according to the United States Elections Project.
“These are two individuals that evoke very passionate emotions on both sides,” said Democratic political strategist Penny Lee.
“They’re both beloved within their own base and both despised by the other, so that has caused for some real polarization and very strong points of view,” Lee added in an interview with VOA. For those voters who have not yet decided whom to support, she said, “the challenge is determining between two unpopular candidates which one will actually be the better president.”
David Almacy, a former White House staffer for former Republican President George W. Bush, told VOA the candidates still have some convincing to do in the waning days of the presidential campaign. Because of the strong divide between Trump and Clinton, he added, those voters who have remained silent about their political preferences are an untapped source of support for whoever can win them over.
In that vein, Clinton told undecided voters Friday that Trump’s history of insulting people did not start when he launched his presidential campaign.
Speaking in the swing state of Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidate recalled some of Trump’s previous forays into politics, long before his presidential ambitions crystallized. “He took out a full-page ad [in a major newspaper] in 1987 to insult [Republican] President Reagan, so he has been an equal opportunity insulter,” Clinton said to cheering supporters in Pittsburgh.
Nevertheless, Almacy added: “I do think there is going to be a percentage of those who may not choose to vote because of their distaste for what we’ve seen over the past two years.”