Campaign 2016: Trump tries to focus in the final stretch; Clinton stops in Arizona
WASHINGTON (AP) — With Election Day in sight, Donald Trump tried again for the discipline and restraint that has eluded him for months, hoping not to blow a burst of momentum that has him closing on Hillary Clinton. Clinton and her allies, meanwhile, are doing her best to trip up Trump.
Return of long lines marks some early voting in Phoenix
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Some Phoenix-area voters hoping to avoid long lines on Election Day by casting early ballots have ended up waiting anyway.
Dozens of voters who crammed inside an office building in Glendale that was serving as a polling site Wednesday reported waiting for more than two hours.
"We were in there like sardines," said Vannessa Bonilla, 26, of Phoenix, a Republican who voted for the first time.
Voters endured waits of more than five hours in the March primary. The county cut polling locations to just 60 from about 200 in the 2012 primary.
The wait prompted a civil rights group to file a lawsuit against Maricopa County. The county settled it by agreeing to implement a plan to avoid polling place wait time.
Deborah Eastman, 64, of Glendale, a registered Republican who voted Wednesday for Democrat Hillary Clinton, had hoped to make it to Clinton's Phoenix rally. But after waiting 2 ½ hours, the substitute teacher didn't think she would.
"I figured she'd rather have me vote for her than show up at the rally," Eastman said.
The long wait time was largely due to limited staff and equipment to handle the unexpectedly large crowd. Voters have to fill out a slip before getting their ballot printed out. There was only one computer, one printer and a couple of workers assigned to the site.
Maricopa County recorder's office spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew said county election officials will send additional staff and another computer to the Glendale site Thursday.
Three other sites — in Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa — were similarly busy. They will get more staff on Friday, the last day to vote early in person.
Bartholomew said people could also drive to polling places that have had no waits, including one in downtown Phoenix and another at Arizona State University.
Elections officials said they were happy to see the unprecedented turnout.
The county only had a dozen in-person, early voting sites for the 2012 general election, according to Bartholomew. This year it's more than doubled with 25.
Several Maricopa County voters cited an especially ugly campaign season and the long waits in Arizona's presidential primary as reasons for voting early.
The candidates were slated to take their tussle to Florida and North Carolina on Thursday, two lynchpins in Trump's plan to take the White House. With five days before Election Day, the unconventional Republican candidate was hewing closer to convention, running some upbeat ads, bringing out his wife for a rare campaign appearance and trying, publicly, not to veer off-message.
"'Stay on point, Donald, stay on point,'" Trump teasingly quoted his staff as saying, as he campaigned Wednesday in Florida. "No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy. Nice and easy.'"
Melania Trump was scheduled to campaign in Pennsylvania Thursday, her first turn on the trail since the Republican convention in July. The former model will try to counter the Clinton campaign's pounding attacks on Trump as anti-woman, a strategy Democrats see as the best hope for rattling the Republican opponent and driving female voters away from him.
Clinton took that message to a massive audience Wednesday night during the final game of the World Series. The Democrats aired a series of attack ads that highlighted Trump's lewd comments about women. Trump's advertising was a mix of positive and negative spots, including one promising "a future brighter than our past."
The Clinton campaign is trying to keep Trump's history of vulgar and disparaging statements about women, minorities and people with disabilities fresh in voters' minds as they head to the polls.
Among those conveying that message for Clinton is President Barack Obama, who was due to campaign in Florida on Thursday, as Clinton headed to North Carolina for rallies in Raleigh and Winterville.
Trump can't win the election without carrying Florida, underscoring how narrow his path to the White House is. Trump campaigned in three Florida cities Wednesday — Miami, Orlando and Pensacola — and will follow up with a stop in Jacksonville on Thursday.
"We don't want to blow this," he told rowdy supporters in Miami. "We gotta win. We gotta win big."
Despite tightening polls, Clinton still has more options, which was underscored by her decision to make a late stop Wednesday in reliably Republican Arizona.
"This state is in play for the first time in years," Clinton exclaimed during a nighttime rally on the campus of Arizona State University. She was greeted by a boisterous crowd of 15,000, one of her largest of the campaign.
Clinton's campaign has been eyeing Arizona for weeks, given Trump's unpopularity with Hispanic voters. Clinton painted a grim view of life for Hispanics under a Trump administration. She also waded into a local sheriff's race getting national attention, backing Democrat Paul Penzone for Maricopa County sheriff, a post held by immigration hardliner Joe Arpaio.
But Clinton's hopes for a landslide appear to be fading. Polls showing Trump closing in on her in battleground states, including some where Clinton has led for weeks.
A pro-Clinton group was spending more than $1 million on Michigan airwaves along with at least $1 million more in Colorado, a state where Clinton has enjoyed a significant polling advantage for much of the fall.
Former President Bill Clinton made an unannounced appearance in Detroit Wednesday night to meet privately with black ministers, the city's mayor and other local leaders. Hillary Clinton planned to travel to the Detroit area on Friday.
Early voting numbers in some states suggest that her challenge stems, at least in part, from underwhelming support from African-American voters. That could complicate her path in other states, too, including North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Early voting in North Carolina shows a 5 percentage point drop in ballots from black voters from 2012.
Obama, the nation's first black president, offered an urgent message to North Carolina voters on Wednesday: "The fate of the republic rests on your shoulders."