TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Long on swagger and short on time, Donald Trump declared Saturday he would spend some of the last hours of the presidential campaign in Democratic strongholds, promising to pull off a shocker in states that haven’t voted for a Republican in decades.
Campaigning in Florida, where he appears to be running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton, Trump plans to head to Minnesota in the final three days of the campaign. Trump was already scheduled to hunt for votes in Nevada and Colorado later Saturday, states that have been leaning in Clinton’s direction for weeks but may be tightening as Trump sees his chances rise in national polls. He’ll also campaign in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Minnesota hasn’t cast its electoral votes for a Republican since 1972. A Republican hasn’t won Michigan or Pennsylvania since 1988.
“We’re going into what they used to call Democrat strongholds, where we’re now either tied or leading,” he told a rowdy crowd at a rally in Tampa. “We’re going to Minnesota, which traditionally has not been Republican at all.” Public polls from earlier this fall found a comfortable lead for Clinton in Minnesota.
Trump kicked off a marathon day in Florida, a state he essentially must win to take the White House. Polls suggest a Florida nail-biter. Democrats say Hispanic voters are showing up in droves to vote early, while Republicans point to signs that reliably Democratic African-American voters are not coming out in the numbers that helped deliver the state to President Barack Obama.
Clinton, too, started her day in Florida, with a stop at an early-voting site in Miami and a rainy outdoor rally outside the city.
“You’re a hardy bunch,” she told a soaked crowd, before cutting short her remarks as rain poured down. “Let’s vote for the future!”
Clinton and Trump have been tangling over relatively few states in the final stretch. In each, Clinton is aiming to fire up her base of Hispanic, African-Americans, young people and women, while Trump is strongest among white, working-class voters. That’s left him looking strongest in Rust Belt states where white voters still hold sway. But it’s also apparently given him hope in Minnesota, which despite its liberal bent has at times looked kindly on unconventional candidates, like former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura.
Still, the path of Trump’s campaign jet appeared to be fueled by somewhat risky ambition. Rather than hunkering down in Florida, he flew Saturday to Democratic-leaning territory: Wilmington, North Carolina, then Reno, Nevada, and Denver.
Clinton has been relying on a cast of allies and A-listers to help her cover territory and fill seats. She basked in some star power in Cleveland on Friday night at a free concert with singer Beyoncé and rapper husband Jay Z.
“My personal favorite part — Beyoncé had her backup singers in pantsuits” Clinton said with a laugh at her rally in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
She planned to keep up the celebrity cameos — a play for young and minority voters — all weekend.
On Saturday night, Clinton will campaign with pop star Katy Perry in Philadelphia. The next day, she intends to take the stage with basketball star LeBron James in Cleveland, a rare dive into politics for a superstar athlete still in the prime of his career. Clinton will return Monday night to Philadelphia for a joint rally with her husband and the Obamas.
Trump, whose campaign has divided the Republican Party, hasn’t relied on Hollywood headliners, or even top leaders from his own party.
He boasts that he doesn’t need stars to fill his venues in the closing days of the presidential race. He filled the 10,500-seat Giant Center hockey arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on Friday night.
“We do it the old-fashioned way,” Trump said Saturday, meaning with his message instead of with stars.
He campaigned Saturday with retired football coach Lou Holtz and actor Joe Piscopo. An event with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that was scheduled for Saturday was canceled after two of his top aides were found guilty Friday on all counts for their roles in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal.
He may not have major celebrities, but he had his family, Trump noted Saturday, including his wife, Melania Trump, who has been in infrequent campaigner.
Melania Trump’s appearance at the North Carolina rally came as The Associated Press revealed more details about her early employment in the U.S.
The AP found that Melania Trump was paid for modeling jobs in the United States worth $20,056 that occurred in the seven weeks before she had legal permission to work in the country, according to detailed accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents from 20 years ago.
Trump has not been able to rely on the GOP establishment for assistance on the trail. But he did get a small boost on Saturday, when he delivered the Republicans’ weekly address. Trump used the platform to promote his economic and security proposals, and he made a direct pitch to African-Americans and Hispanics.
“We will give every parent in America the right to send their kids to the school of their choice, including millions of low-income African-American and Hispanic children who have been failed, so long — for generations in fact — by the Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Trump’s running mate has been acting as a liaison to conservatives. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told a crowd of hundreds in Holland, Michigan, on Saturday that Trump would push “common-sense conservative principles” if elected president.
It was Pence’s third consecutive day of campaigning in Michigan.
Pence urged Republicans to “come home” to the GOP candidate to keep Clinton from shaping the Supreme Court.
Pence was also set to campaign in Wisconsin and Virginia on Saturday.