WINTERVILLE, N.C. — Hillary Clinton is making a major attempt to drive up African-American turnout in the campaign's closing days, warning that Donald Trump has been sounding a "dog whistle" for his most "hateful supporters" and running a campaign on "racially tinged conspiracy theories."
Speaking Thursday in North Carolina, a critical battleground where early voting figures suggest black turnout is thus far lower than it was in Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012, Clinton mentioned Trump's recent endorsement by the Ku Klux Klan's official newspaper — which the Trump campaign has rejected — and focused on the real estate mogul's history, including a 1970s Justice Department housing discrimination lawsuit involving one of his apartment buildings.
The Democratic nominee also mentioned the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latino teenagers arrested and charged with brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in 1989. DNA evidence later exonerated them, but Trump has maintained his belief that they are guilty.
"Not only did Donald Trump refuse to apologize," said Clinton, "he actually said they should still be in prison."
"Do any of us have a place in Trump’s America?" she asked the crowd at Pitt Community College, as speakers before her warned of voter suppression efforts in the state, including registration cancellations, that prompted an NAACP lawsuit.
As the Democratic nominee looks to boost turnout among African Americans, she is also looking to move past a surprise announcement last week that the FBI is reviewing new emails that may involve her private server.
However, compared to a week ago, her advantage in polls nationally and in key states is narrowing, and Trump is using the email development to slam Clinton in every campaign speech, as she seeks to change the subject.
During a late-night rally Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, the former secretary of State urged supporters not to “get distracted” as she sought to turn the spotlight back to issues that could be damaging to Trump.
Her communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, said Clinton will not be mentioning the email issue further in her speeches.
Instead, she is hammering Trump.
On Wednesday in Las Vegas, Clinton asked supporters at a local pipe fitters union hall to “imagine with me what it would be like to have Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office come next January.”
She cited Trump’s comments that more countries should have nuclear weapons and that the military is “a disaster.” Trump would violate Constitutional religious freedom protections and set a bad example with his rhetoric for little girls and boys, she said. Trump’s refusal at their final debate last month to commit to accepting the results of the election amounts to an attack democracy itself, she added.
“This has never happened in American history,” said Clinton. “This, my friends, is not a normal election."
The emails that sparked the FBI announcement were found on the laptop of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide. Comey has said the emails appear to be pertinent, but may or may not be significant, to its initial investigation of Clinton’s private server.
The reemergence of the email issue is making it difficult for Clinton to end her campaign on a positive note as she had hoped. After highlighting her résumé, Clinton has been quickly pivoting to attacks on the Republican nominee before outlining the specifics of her proposals.
“I truly believe you need a candidate to vote for, not just someone to vote against,” she said in Arizona Wednesday. “But if we’re going to make this choice next Tuesday, we need to be clear on what the choice is.”
“If Donald Trump were to win this election, we would have a commander in chief who is completely out of his depth” and whose ideas “are dangerous,” said Clinton.
Clinton's stop in red-tilting Arizona, where she drew an estimated 15,000 supporters to a field in Tempe, was an effort to project strength. But on Friday, she’s jetting to Michigan, a state with strong labor ties and that polls show she should carry. She’s also dropping new television ads in Michigan and New Mexico, another blue state she needs to win, and returning to the airwaves in Colorado and Virginia, states from which she’d previously shifted resources as polling showed her with large advantages.
The blitz is a result of new fundraising dollars that have poured in in the aftermath of the Comey announcement, said Palmieri. “If we’ve seen any effect of James Comey’s letter, it is to be a motivating factor for our supporters,” she told reporters en route to Las Vegas.
Yet Republicans are escalating their attacks, with Trump even urging voters in Wisconsin to go back and change their votes for Clinton. Trump is trying to set her back in traditionally blue states like Wisconsin, which he visited on Tuesday and may return to in the coming days. A new ad from Future45, a pro-Trump super PAC, is attempting to compare Clinton to Richard Nixon.
Recently, Clinton’s confidence in her lead had allowed her to spend time focusing on helping elect more Democrats to the Senate. She was joined by Democratic Senate candidates at her rallies as she slammed sitting Republicans, such as Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr.
That didn’t happen Wednesday in Nevada, when Clinton was joined by Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto but didn’t spend much time attacking Joe Heck, her Republican opponent.