Trump mounts blue-state challenge to Clinton in final sprint


Washington (AFP)

Donald Trump stormed into Democratic territory as the campaign entered its final week Monday, determined to disprove polls and capture the White House as rival Hillary Clinton battles to contain the fallout from renewed FBI focus on her emails.

The Republican barreled into the northern state of Michigan, where Clinton leads by 6.2 points, hoping to capitalize on the controversy to sway swing voters just eight days before Election Day.

Trump also campaigned Sunday in Clinton-friendly New Mexico, and holds a rally Tuesday in Wisconsin, where Clinton's lead is 5.7 points, according to a RealClearPolitics poll aggregate.

Allegations that Clinton put the United States at risk by using a private email server while secretary of state were thrust back into the spotlight Friday -- dramatically shifting the momentum in a race where Clinton was increasingly seen as the prohibitive favorite to win.

University of Virginia politics professor Larry Sabato told AFP the email scandal "has changed the dynamic of the race."

"She would have been running a victory lap this week, running up the score. Instead she's trying to hold on."

The long-running controversy reared its head once more when FBI director James Comey revealed that the bureau was looking into the matter once again, based on a previously unknown trove of emails.

Clinton reacted furiously to the announcement, while other Democrats widely denounced it for coming just days before a presidential election. But Trump has gleefully seized on the revelations in an attempt to offset his own disadvantage in most polls.

"We all know about Hillary's mounting legal troubles, that she has brought onto herself with her serial, wilful, purposeful and deliberate criminal conduct," the 70-year-old told a crowd Sunday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

- 'Flip' a blue state -

It remained unclear how much the Comey announcement will move the needle, but Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CBS News that Clinton's camp was reeling.

"I just don't think that they were ready for the race to take this turn again," she said.

While Clinton does maintain leads in some key battleground states and a modest advantage nationwide, recent polls already showed a tightening race.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey carried out before the FBI announcement put the Democratic presidential candidate just one point ahead of her Republican challenger.

But while Clinton's lead has shrunk, Sabato distilled the Trump strategy to a simple truth: he needs to flip at least one Democratic-leaning state on November 8 in order to win.

"He is going to have to turn a blue state or two in addition to winning the battlegrounds," Sabato said. "He has to win almost everything. If he wins all the battlegrounds, he needs one more blue state."

Clinton, meanwhile, hit the campaign trail hard Sunday in the battleground state of Florida, where Trump has clawed back into the slimmest of leads for the Democrat according to polling.

"We're not going to be distracted, no matter what our opponents throw at us. We are not going to be knocked off course," she told supporters.

On Monday the 69-year-old traveled to swing state Ohio as she continues to encourage early voting. More than 22 million have already cast early ballots.

- 'Serious mistake' -

Clinton's campaign was jolted when Comey announced that his agents are reviewing a newly discovered trove of emails, resurrecting an issue the candidate hoped was behind her.

Her response has been to hit out at the move as "deeply troubling" and to rally supporters to get out and vote, turning the tables on Trump by branding him as unfit to lead the nation.

President Barack Obama's first attorney general, Eric Holder, issued a blistering opinion piece on Comey's actions in Monday's Washington Post.

Comey "is a good man, but he made a serious mistake," Holder wrote.

"That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. And it ran counter to guidance that I put in place four years ago laying out the proper way to conduct investigations during an election season."

According to US media, the probe was renewed after agents seized a laptop used by Clinton's close aide, Huma Abedin, and her now estranged husband, Anthony Weiner.

The disgraced former congressman, who resigned in 2011 after sending explicit online messages, is under investigation over allegations he sent sexual overtures to a 15-year-old girl.

US networks reported Sunday that the FBI had obtained a warrant to search the emails.