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Presidential foes hit final campaign week

World

Donald Trump has plunged into his final-week sprint to Election Day by unleashing a harsh new attack against Democrat Hillary Clinton in Michigan, a state that hasn’t favoured a Republican for president in nearly three decades.

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“Her election would mire our government and our country in a constitutional crisis that we cannot afford,” Trump declared in Grand Rapids, pointing to the FBI’s renewed examination of Clinton’s email practices as evidence the former secretary of state might face a criminal trial as president.

National polls show a tightening race. But with more than 23 million ballots already cast through early voting, it’s unclear whether Trump has the time or capacity to dramatically improve his standing over the next week in states like Michigan, where few political professionals in either party expect a Republican victory on November 8.

Clinton focused Monday on battleground Ohio, a state Trump’s team concedes he must win.

“There is no case here,” Clinton said of the FBI examination. “Most people have decided a long time ago what they think about all this.”

With just seven days to go, the race for the White House remains at its core a test of a simple question: Will the conventional rules of modern-day campaigns apply to a 2016 election that has been anything but conventional?

For much of the year, Clinton has pounded the airwaves with advertising, assembled an expansive voter data file and constructed a nationwide political organisation that dwarfs her opponent’s.

The Democratic presidential nominee and her allies in a dozen battleground states have more than 4,800 people knocking on doors, making phone calls and otherwise working to support her candidacy. Clinton’s numbers, as reported in recent campaign filings, tripled those of Trump and the national and state Republican parties.

The New York businessman over the past year has largely ignored the key components of recent winning campaigns, depending instead on massive rallies and free media coverage to drive his outsider candidacy. This week, he’s devoting his most valuable resource – his time – to states where polls suggest he’s trailing Clinton by significant margins.

Trump had two rallies on Monday in Michigan, a state that last went for a Republican presidential nominee in 1988. The day before, he appeared in New Mexico, which has supported the GOP just once over the last three decades. And on Tuesday, he’s scheduled to appear with running mate Mike Pence in Wisconsin, which hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984.

Trump’s campaign hopes that frustrated working-class voters across the Midwest will tip states like Michigan or Wisconsin his way, especially if he benefits from reduced enthusiasm for Clinton in African-American strongholds like Detroit and Milwaukee. New Mexico is seen as a longer shot, with Trump’s hard line immigration stance a harder sell in a state with the nation’s highest percentage of Latino voters.

Adding to Trump’s challenge: Millions have already voted by mail and at polling stations across 37 states. They include critical states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, where one third of the expected ballots have already been cast.

The breakdown of those voters by party affiliation, race and other factors point to an advantage for Clinton.

In Colorado, Democrats lead Republicans by 3 percentage points in early voting, reversing a trend in the past two elections in which Republicans led in early voting and large numbers of Democrats voted on Election Day.

In swing state Iowa, Republicans trail Democrats in early voting as well, though by a smaller margin than four years ago. Both parties are well behind where they were four years ago.

AP

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