Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump battled over the strength of the economy in the final stretch of their race for the White House on Friday, with Clinton praising the latest U.S. jobs report and Trump dismissing it as a fraudulent disaster.
With four days left in an often bitter contest that has tightened in the last week, each candidate attacked the other as unfit to be president in a late push for votes in battleground states that could decide the outcome in Tuesday’s election.
“I believe our economy is poised to really take off and thrive,” Clinton told the gathering, after being introduced by billionaire investor Mark Cuban.
Trump disputed Clinton’s rosy view, telling a crowd in New Hampshire that the jobs report was “an absolute disaster” and was skewed by the large number of people who have stopped looking for jobs and are no longer in the labor market.
“Nobody believes the numbers anyway. The numbers they put out are phony,” he said, referring to the figures released by the U.S. Labor Department.
The economy and the candidates’ competing visions for the future could be critical in swaying voters in ailing Rust Belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Both candidates made stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania on Friday, with Trump adding a stop in New Hampshire and Clinton adding one in Michigan. Each of those states is key in the state-by-state quest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
The race has tightened significantly in the past week, as several swing states that are considered must-wins for Trump shifted from favoring Clinton to toss-ups, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project.
The two candidates are now tied in Florida and North Carolina, and Clinton’s lead in Michigan has narrowed so much that the state is too close to call. Ohio remains a dead heat, and Clinton has a slight lead in Pennsylvania.
Trump now has a plausible route to victory.
Trump, a New York businessman and former reality TV star, has made a pitch for blue-collar workers who have been angered by free-trade deals and feel abandoned by Washington. But his protectionist rhetoric – he has promised to review trade agreements – appears to be having mixed success in the Rust Belt.
Reuters/Ipsos polling from mid-October found a majority in both Ohio and Pennsylvania believe that international trade benefits Americans by keeping the cost of goods low, although they also think it hurts “average Americans” by depressing wages and causing job losses at home.
Trump has a more modest lead with men. Among whites, Trump has a 7-point lead over Clinton in Ohio and a 3-point lead over Clinton in Pennsylvania.
In the final stretch, the two candidates continued to paint a dire scenario of life in the United States if their opponent captures the White House. Trump said the FBI’s fresh examination of emails that may be related to Clinton’s use of a private email server for government work while she was secretary of state could lead to “a constitutional crisis.”
“Aren’t we tired of all this stuff?” he asked. “America deserves a government that can go to work on Day One.”
Hispanic groups in swing states cranked up their get-out-the-vote efforts for the final stretch of the race on Friday.