Clinton, Trump clash over economy in closing campaign stretch
CLEVELAND/HERSHEY: 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 US jobs report and Trump dismissing it as a fraudulent disaster.
With four days left in an often bitter contest that has tightened considerably 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.
Clinton leads Trump by 5 percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll released on Friday, maintaining her advantage in the national survey even as the race tightens in several crucial swing states.
In the Oct. 30-Nov. 3 opinion poll, 44 percent of likely voters supported Clinton while 39 percent supported Trump.
At a rally in Pittsburgh, Clinton cited the government's latest jobs report as evidence of the economy's strength. The report showed higher wages for workers as well as the creation of 161,000 jobs in October and a fall in the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent from 5 percent.
"I believe our economy is poised to really take off and thrive," Clinton told the gathering, after being introduced by billionaire investor Mark Cuban. "When the middle class thrives, America thrives."
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 labour market.
"Nobody believes the numbers anyway. The numbers they put out are phoney," he said of the figures released by the Labor Department at a rally in Atkinson.
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 critical 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 favouring Clinton to toss-ups, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project.