Trump and Clinton begin final sprint to November

Donald Trump and GOP running mate Gov. Mike Pence greet the crowd at the Canfield Fairgrounds near Youngstown, Ohio.
Donald Trump and GOP running mate Gov. Mike Pence greet the crowd at the Canfield Fairgrounds near Youngstown, Ohio.
Published Sept. 6, 2016

CLEVELAND — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ran virtually parallel campaigns Monday as they geared up for the final stretch of the presidential race. She made nice with the news media by opening up her campaign plane and chatting with reporters. He followed suit, inviting a smaller group of reporters onto his plane and answering questions during the 30-minute flight.

She took along her running mate, and so did he, as both focused on Ohio and nearly crossed paths in Cleveland. Their motorcades all but passed each other, and all four candidates' planes ended up on the tarmac at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport at the same time.

Clinton moved on several fronts on Monday to confront nagging doubts about her candidacy, despite her comfortable lead in many swing-state polls. Courting labor supporters, she met with union leaders in Cleveland while her husband, Bill Clinton, appeared at a Labor Day parade in Detroit. Seeking the backing of progressive voters, she enlisted her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who made his first solo appearance on Hillary Clinton's behalf at a rally in New Hampshire.

And her outreach to reporters included her most extensive question-and-answer session with them in months. She expressed alarm "about the credible reports about Russian government interference in our elections" through hacking, saying, "We've never had a foreign adversarial power be already involved in our electoral process."

Not to be outdone, Trump used his airborne meeting with reporters to clarify his views on immigration, saying he opposed any path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. But he did not explicitly rule out a long-term path to legal status if the nation's immigration system is overhauled.

"We're going to make that decision into the future," Trump said. But, he added, "to become a citizen, you are going to have to go out and come back in through the process. You're going to have to go out and get in line. This isn't touchback. You have to get in line."

On the plane, Trump also told reporters that, "as of this moment," he planned to attend all three debates, and that only a "natural disaster" could make him change his mind. He added that, while he was preparing, he was not holding any mock debate sessions.

Labor Day is traditionally the beginning of a two-month sprint to Election Day, in which candidates try to seize voters' attention as summer fades and debates loom. Monday was no exception. The visits to Ohio by Trump and Clinton — along with their respective running mates, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia — highlighted the importance of a state that Republicans believe Trump must win to have any shot of reaching the White House.

"Labor Day comes, and it's kind of like a recalibration," said Beth Myers, who managed Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign and served as his senior adviser in 2012. "You see the finish line, you see that there's not too many game-changing events left, and most campaigns take a measure of where you are on Labor Day."

At they head toward November, Trump, a political novice, and Clinton, a veteran politician, are confronting historically low approval ratings among voters for whom they are well-known commodities.