Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sprinted across the country to newly competitive battleground states Sunday as the tumultuous presidential race saw another dramatic development Sunday.
In a letter to congressional leaders, FBI Director James B. Comey said that after an expedited review of new emails that came to light, he still believes that Clinton should not face charges related to her use of a personal server as secretary of state.
Comey’s announcement on Oct. 28 that the FBI was scrutinizing newly discovered email had reinvigorated Trump’s campaign in the closing stretch of the race, and polls in several battleground states have tightened since then.
“We are glad to see that … he has confirmed that the decision he reached in July, and we are glad that this matter is resolved,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters aboard a flight to a planned rally in Cleveland.
Trump has new targets in his sights in historically Democratic states such as Michigan, New Mexico and Minnesota..
On Sunday, the Republican nominee’s campaign pointed to Clinton’s scramble to shore up states like Michigan as a sign of momentum.
“Donald Trump is closing, and he’s got the momentum going into Tuesday,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said on ABC News. “We believe a Pennsylvania, a Michigan, a Wisconsin could quickly move onto our board.”
Once thought to be safe for Democrats, Michigan has become a last-minute battleground, with Clinton heading to Grand Rapids on Monday, the campaign announced this weekend. President Obama, who won Michigan twice, will campaign in Ann Arbor on Monday. And former president Bill Clinton made a stop in Lansing on Sunday after visiting churches in Flint.
Clinton campaigned in Philadelphia on Sunday after attending a get-out-the-vote concert in the city on Saturday night. And she will return to the state for two rallies on the eve of Election Day, a sign that the Keystone State is among the battlegrounds where her lead over Trump has dwindled in recent days.
A top Clinton aide said Sunday that the race is effectively over and that the campaign believes Clinton will hold on to blue, upper Midwestern states such as Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“We feel like we got a lead in Michigan,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He added, “We want to hold on to it, and we think we can do that.”
“We think we have this race over. We’re going to get over our 270 electoral votes,” he added on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Trump will return to Northern Virginia on Sunday night as Republicans see new hope in a state where Clinton has long held a comfortable lead. And for the second time in less than 48 hours, Clinton will return to Ohio, which has consistently been one of Trump’s strongest battlegrounds, to hold a rally with basketball star and Cleveland’s hometown hero LeBron James.
At Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia on Sunday morning, Clinton swayed to a gospel serenade from singer BeBe Winans and delivered a version of her stump speech that sounded more like a sermon.
“On Tuesday we face a test of our own,” she told the predominantly African-American congregation. “This election is about much more than two candidates. Everything you care about, everything I care about, is at stake.”
Clinton noted that there is no early voting in Pennsylvania and urged strong turnout on Tuesday, despite what she said are forces trying to suppress or deter voting.
“We cannot get this wrong. The stakes are too high,” she said.
Trump will campaign in Sterling Heights, Michigan, on Sunday evening. He will also make stops in Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania on Sunday.
Trump started his five-state swing in Sioux City in eastern Iowa, close to the Nebraska border. Nebraska is one of two states that can split its electoral votes between candidates, and in 2008, one electoral vote from the Omaha area went to Obama.
Speaking before Comey’s latest letter to Congress was released, the Republican nominee continued to suggest that Clinton could face criminal charges related to the ongoing investigation into her use of a private email server while at the State Department.
“If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis,” Trump said. “In that situation we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and, ultimately, a criminal trial.”
“We have one chance, it’s our last chance,” he added.
Trump name-checked Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and criticized him for endorsing his former rival for the Democratic nomination, Clinton.
“Many of his people, believe it or not, are coming to our side because they agree with me on trade. They realize how we’re being ripped apart on trade,” Trump said. “And he should never have made a deal. He sold his soul to the devil when he made that deal.”
Trump’s vehement opposition to free-trade deals is one of the issues he had in common with Sanders, and it helps to explain his unexpected strength in Rust Belt states like Michigan.
Ahead of Trump’s visit to Sterling Heights, the city’s Muslims are bracing themselves for the arrival of a candidate who has pledged to bar Muslims from entering the country.
“It is unnerving to have him here, so close,” Syed Razvi said as he left Saturday evening prayers at the American Muslim Diversity Association mosque. “Before Trump’s candidacy, if you meet anybody around here, no problem. Now everybody’s like: ‘Oh, you’re a Muslim. We need to stay away from them.’ ”
At a rally on Saturday night in Reno, Nevada, Trump was rushed offstage as security officials swarmed, but the candidate re-emerged after a few minutes and finished his speech.
The U.S. Secret Service later said in a statement that it took action after “an unidentified individual shouted ‘gun’ ” in front of the stage. Agents apprehended the person but found no gun, the statement said, adding that an investigation into the incident continues.
Trump concluded his rally without further incident.
In the aftermath of the event’s disruption, Trump campaign aides and the candidate’s son Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a supporter who credited Trump for returning to the stage after an “assassination attempt.”
Asked about the younger Trump’s retweet, Trump’s campaign manager called the protester a “Democratic plant” and said the incident had understandably shaken the Trump family.
“If you’re Don Jr. and you’re on a live TV set while you’re watching this unfold, it’s pretty rattling to think of what may have happened to your father,” Kellyanne Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “So, I will excuse him that.”
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign continues to use its huge financial advantage over Trump to press its case to swing voters on the airwaves.
The campaign on Sunday released two national ads appealing to moderate and Republican voters to reject Trump and embrace Clinton. Both ads feature straight-to-camera testimonials from Republican military veterans who say they cannot vote for their party’s nominee, citing Trump’s comments about women. Another two-minute ad will air Monday night, aimed at reaching about 20 million people, according to a campaign aide.
Trump also released a closing campaign ad , a two-minute spot tying Clinton to the “failed and corrupt political establishment” and “global special interests.” But the ad, which features images of piles of cash along with Jewish corporate and financial leaders, including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen, was sharply criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for what it called anti-Semitic overtones.
“Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “This needs to stop.”
In the closing days of the campaign, polling averages compiled by The Washington Post continue to show a close contest in several battleground states. In Michigan, Clinton holds just a two-point edge over Trump, 43 to 41 percent. She also holds a slim lead in New Hampshire (43 to 41 percent).
Clinton will rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Sunday with Khizr Khan. Khan is the father of fallen soldier Capt. Humayun Khan, whose challenge to Trump over the Republican’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration was among the most memorable moments of the Democratic National Convention.
Nationally, Clinton leads Trump 48 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, according to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.
In Colorado, Clinton is up 43 percent to 41 percent. In Arizona, Trump leads by three points (46-43). Clinton is ahead by six points in New Mexico (40-34) and five points in North Carolina (48-43), Pennsylvania (47-42) and Wisconsin (45-40). She’s up by four points in Virginia (45-41). Trump holds a five-point lead in Ohio (46-41).
The race remains ticktock tight in Nevada, where the candidates are tied at 44 percent each. In Florida, Clinton has a 47-to-46-percent advantage. Trump leads in Georgia (47-45), Iowa (46-41), and Utah (35-28), where third-party candidate Evan McMullin has been polling well.
Poll averages calculated by The Post for Clinton and Trump reflect recent polls that also include McMullin, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein where they are on the ballot and where results are available.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Anne Gearan, Jenna Johnson, Abby Phillip