Clinton And Her Surrogates Focus On Swing States Heading Into Election Day

Nov 8, 2016
Originally published on November 8, 2016 10:25 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is hard to keep track of all the ways that today's election could make history.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Hillary Clinton, if she wins, would come to be the first female president.

INSKEEP: Nor has the country ever elected a candidate quite like Donald Trump.

MONTAGNE: And then there is President Obama, whose legacy is, in a way, on the ballot.

INSKEEP: Very few presidents have served two full terms and then managed to see a successor from the same party.

MONTAGNE: And for more, we turn now to NPR's Scott Detrow. Good morning.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Big day.

DETROW: Big, big day. We're here.

MONTAGNE: At last. OK, well, Scott, where did Clinton go on her last day?

DETROW: Well, there was a big focus on Pennsylvania. That's a key state for her and importantly a state that hasn't really done any early voting yet. So she began the day in Pittsburgh, and she came back in the evening for a massive Democratic rally in Philadelphia with Bill Clinton, President Obama, Michelle Obama. Bruce Springsteen was there. Bon Jovi was there. She - she got everyone she could. Clinton also campaigned in Michigan. That's a Democratic state where Donald Trump is trying to make a last-minute surge. And it all ended in North Carolina, one of the most contested states all year. Millions of votes have already been cast there, but the polls show a dead heat. It couldn't be closer. So here's Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia in that big rally in front of Independence Mall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: Because I believe we all have a role to play in building a better, fairer, stronger America, building on the progress that we have enjoyed under President Barack Obama over the last eight years.

INSKEEP: Scott Detrow, did she manage a positive note then at the end of this brutal campaign?

DETROW: She did. And you saw that in one place in this big two-minute ad that she ran on a lot of TV networks last night, really kind of talking about it's been a bruising campaign, it's been a negative campaign, but she wants to - you know, that stronger together phrase that's blasted on her airplane and she talks a lot about, talking about wanting to be a unifying president and that kind of brings the country forward.

INSKEEP: Well, NPR's Tamara Keith has been following Clinton's every move and sent us this report.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: For big parts of the last two years, it felt like Hillary Clinton was on a long, hard slog toward the election. But in the final hours of her potentially history-making run, Clinton campaigned joyfully.

(CHEERING)

KEITH: After her rally in Pittsburgh, Clinton dashed across the street to greet a large group of supporters who couldn't get into the rally. One woman shouted, I became a citizen for you, Hillary.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROAR")

KATY PERRY: (Singing) And you're going to hear me roar.

KEITH: At Grand Valley State University in Michigan, Clinton grabbed a supporter's cellphone to take a mass selfie. Twenty-two-year-old Marysa Sutton wore a T-shirt with Clinton depicted as Rosie the Riveter. She had already voted.

MARYSA SUTTON: I voted absentee because I can't get back to my home district, and I feel so good about what I did. I've never felt better about anything in my life honestly.

KEITH: Sutton says she first got into politics when she was 6 years old.

SUTTON: I remember watching Gore and Bush debate with my mom and asking all kinds of questions and asking why there wasn't a female president. And now if Secretary Clinton gets elected, I'm going to know deep in my heart of hearts that I can be anything that I want to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THUNDER ROAD")

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Well, the screen door slams. Mary's dress waves.

KEITH: Some 33,000 people packed on to Independence Mall in Philadelphia to see Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Clinton and some of the best surrogates a Democrat could ask for.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: This election is on us. It is in our hands.

KEITH: That was first lady Michelle Obama who said electing Clinton would send a message about America.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: A country where a passionate, outspoken young woman determined to do all the good she can, can go on to break the highest, hardest glass ceiling and become our president.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That is the power you have.

KEITH: President Obama took on the role of attack dog, going after Donald Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Over the weekend, his campaign took away his Twitter account...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: ...Because he's erratic. If his closest advisers don't trust him to tweet, why would any of us trust him with the nuclear codes?

(CHEERING)

KEITH: Clinton spoke last, the presidential seal still adorning the lectern. And she implored people to vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: None of us want to wake up on Wednesday morning and wish we had done more. Years from today, when your kids and grandkids ask what you did in 2016 when everything was on the line, I want you to be able to say that you did vote.

KEITH: But before Tuesday morning broke, there was time for one last campaign rally.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) I believe that she will win. I believe that she will win.

KEITH: A stop in Raleigh, N.C., after midnight.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: Well, I got to tell you, this is sure worth staying up for.

(CHEERING)

KEITH: And early this morning, Clinton returned to New York where she'll learn whether this journey will end at the White House. There were supporters and staff waiting there on the tarmac to welcome her home.

MONTAGNE: And that was NPR's Tamara Keith at Clinton's final campaign rally late, late into the night. So, Scott Detrow, as you listen to the two candidates, how different were the visions that they laid out...

DETROW: Very different. I mean...

MONTAGNE: ...I mean, as different as it's been all along?

DETROW: I think that's the case. You know, if Donald Trump's pitch was all about how America has fallen off track, Clinton's was that things are generally going in the right direction, but they can be much better. She wants to stay on the course of what President Obama has been doing for eight years and build on it. And you heard that in that final television spot that ran last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

CLINTON: Look, we - we all know. We've come through some hard economic times, and we've seen some pretty big changes, but I believe in our people. I love this country, and I'm convinced our best days are still ahead of us if we reach for them together.

DETROW: You know, Clinton put forward a lot of policies this campaign, no shortage of details. A lot of them come back to strengthening the safety net and proving things like paid family leave, making college more affordable and increasing taxes on the highest earners to make all of that happen.

INSKEEP: Now, we're hearing a lot about Hillary Clinton in this part of the program. We do want to mention we're hearing a lot about Donald Trump in another part of the program, summing up their closing arguments. And I just want to note, Scott Detrow, how much time each candidate spent trying to put the focus on the other. It did seem through this election year that Hillary Clinton did better when the focus was on Donald Trump and a little bit worse when the focus was on her.

DETROW: I think that was the case for both candidates. When the conversation was about the other person, it was like the other candidate could draft behind them and pick up support in the polls. And the Clinton campaign understood that. It was as important for them to talk about Donald Trump as it was to talk about Clinton, to make this election a referendum on Trump, his temperament, his ability to be commander in chief.

And frankly, that's one reason why Clinton camp stayed off the campaign trail at times. She was happy to have the headlines be about him. And you really saw this strategy more than any other place in that first debate when Clinton wanted to make her case but also kind of get Trump into a position where he'd lose his temper. One way she did that was bringing up Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe winner.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: One of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman Miss Piggy. Then, he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.

DONALD TRUMP: Where did you find - where did you find this?

CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.

TRUMP: Where did you find it?

CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet...

TRUMP: Oh, really?

CLINTON: ...She's going to vote this November.

TRUMP: OK, OK, good.

DETROW: And of course, the rest of that week, Donald Trump made Alicia Machado the key issue of the presidential campaign.

INSKEEP: And you could hear it. Listening back to that tape, you could hear it coming even then.

DETROW: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. You know, Clinton has focused a lot on Trump's missteps, but she has had (laughter) quite a few of her own. So looking back, what has dogged the Clinton campaign this year?

DETROW: Well, I think there's no question chief among the issues she had to face was this private email server. You know, she literally began and ended her campaign answering questions about this. The FBI investigated it. They decided there was nothing to pursue in terms of a criminal case. But this summer, James Comey really criticized Clinton, and that did hurt her image for a long time after that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMES COMEY: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

DETROW: Of course, this all came up again in this last week when Comey made it public the FBI was looking at evidence again. And then just this weekend, he said that that new evidence did not change the bureau's earlier decisions. Clinton has repeatedly said this was a mistake, but that gave Donald Trump an opening. This became a central attack point for the Trump campaign. I think it's fair to say he brought this server up and the investigation into it at basically every single rally he held this year, or nearly every.

INSKEEP: Continually talking about emails and everything else. So now here we are at the end. I guess both candidates will be in the same city just a few blocks away. Maybe they could drop in on each other this evening, right?

DETROW: Maybe they'll have a nice visit with each other. Yeah, New York City is the central focus of the campaign tonight. Hillary Clinton will be at the Javits Center in New York City just a mile - a mile and a little bit more - from where Trump's going to be. It's a massive venue here in New York, and I think one reason Clinton is there is that it has a very prominent glass ceiling.

(LAUGHTER)

DETROW: Hopefully it doesn't fall tonight, but I think Clinton's hoping that metaphorically it does.

INSKEEP: She (inaudible) crash through it in some way. Scott, thanks very much, really appreciate your coverage and the coverage of the NPR POLITICS team all this election year.

DETROW: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.