Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton found new ways to paint their opponent as unfit on the airwaves and on the campaign trail Thursday as a trio of new polls showed Trump closing Clinton's lead in New Hampshire.
While campaigning in Florida and North Carolina, Trump continued to hammer Clinton on the FBI's investigation into her e-mails and on what he claimed was an ongoing investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
"The FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment," Trump said in Jacksonville, Florida, citing a Wednesday report on Fox News that the network has since sought to clarify.
During events in North Carolina, meanwhile, Clinton, whose lead in national and swing state polls has dwindled, asked supporters to imagine a Trump presidency and how it would hurt women and minorities.
“If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can we trust him to serve all Americans?” Clinton said at a rally in Winterville, North Carolina.
The candidates have zeroed in on the states crucial for victory next Tuesday. The problem for Clinton is that the list of battlegrounds may now include New Hampshire, and Clinton announced in a Thursday press release that she would return on Sunday for a rally in Manchester. President Obama, one of Clinton's top surrogates will campaign in the state on her behalf on Monday. After weeks of leading Trump by double digits in New Hampshire, polls released Thursday showed Clinton either tied or trailing Trump in the Granite State.
She's also been forced to pour more money into late advertising buys in Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico. Still, her overall lead in state-level polls continues to bode well for her chances of winning the election.
In Jacksonville, Trump pointed to reporting from Fox News' Bret Baier, who said Wednesday night that sources in the FBI told him that their investigation into the Clinton Foundation is moving toward an indictment. "It's far-reaching and has been going on for more than one year. It was reported that an avalanche of information is coming in," Trump said.
Baier noted Thursday that the FBI itself does not pursue indictments.
Trump's campaign released a new ad Thursday in which a narrator says that the e-mails that reignited the Clinton controversy were found on "pervert" Anthony Weiner's laptop and that Clinton "cannot lead a nation while crippled by a criminal investigation."
In North Carolina, Clinton turned her attention Thursday to Trump’s record on race. At Pitt Community College in Winterville, Clinton was introduced by Mae Brown Higgins, who said that in the 1960s she was denied an apartment that she tried to rent from the Trump family because of her race.
Clinton also called out Trump’s insistence that the Central Park Five, a group of young black men, committed the 1989 brutal assault and rape of a jogger even after they were exonerated.
“It's not just about communities of color, it’s about young people, it's about any of us who don’t ever want us to go back to a time when you can officially discriminate,” Clinton said in Winterville.
Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri described her candidate’s approach to the final days of the race as a response to the “very dark candidacy on the other side” and the need to remind voters of that choice.
Four State Focus
The darker tone of what was already a negative campaign comes as polls show Trump making a dent in Clinton's lead. Both campaigns have homed in on four critical states: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
In the final days of the campaign, Clinton will visit North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire, while Trump has events scheduled in New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Clinton also has top surrogates like President Obama and former President Bill Clinton making stops in North Carolina and Florida. On the eve of Election Day Clinton will hold a large rally with the Obamas and her family in Philadelphia.
Surrogates on the Trail
President Obama campaigned for Clinton throughout Florida Thursday morning while Melania Trump sought to humanize and soften her husband during a rare stump appearance in Berwyn, Penn. in the afternoon.
In Miami, Obama criticized Republican senators for promoting gridlock during his time in office and for suggesting they would impeach Clinton if she's elected.
"Gridlock happens purposely when Republican politicians like Marco Rubio decide they will do anything to oppose anything good for the country if a Democratic president proposes it," Obama said during a rally in Miami. "And that's now Marco Rubio's campaign platform." Obama lobbed a similar criticism against Senator Richard Burr while campaigning in North Carolina on Wednesday.
While campaigning outside of Philadelphia, Trump's wife Melania condemned mean spiritedness and cyber bullying and said that she would help teach children American values like kindness if her husband is elected.
"Children and teenagers can be fragile," Trump said. "They are hurt when they are made fun of or made to feel less in looks or intelligence."
Some were skeptical of Trump's remarks, given her own husband's propensity to lob insults over social media.
“It’s striking to me that his wife was here in the Philadelphia suburbs … talking about the importance of fighting against cyber bullying when some of the very incidences that are in those tough ads are incidents of cyber bullying, of tweets and of personal attacks, from Donald Trump,” Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, said on CNN Thursday.
—With assistance from Jennifer Epstein, Kevin Cirilli and Sahil Kapur.