CLEVELAND (AP) — Hillary Clinton ramped up her pressure on Donald Trump in the election’s most competitive states Friday with an emotional TV ad targeting his criticism of a Muslim-American family. Trump vowed to go all-out in the final three weeks so he’ll have no regrets — even if he loses.
The nominees retrenched behind familiar arguments a day after appearing together at a charity event that veered into cutting personal attacks, an unexpected metaphor for this year’s take-no-prisoners presidential campaign. Clinton’s new ad features Khizr Khan, whom Trump assailed after Khan spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
In the minute-long ad, which Clinton’s campaign said was airing in seven battleground states, Khan retells how his son, Captain Humayun Khan, died in Iraq seeking to protect his U.S. military unit from a suicide bomber.
“Mr. Trump, would my son have a place in your America?” the father asks, tearing up as the ad fades to black.
Trump focused some of his criticism on Michelle Obama, who has emerged as one of the most effective voices for Clinton. One of the country’s most popular Democrats, the first lady for years has been loath to devote significant time to campaigning, but has done so in recent days with searing indictments of Trump’s treatment of women.
“All she wants to do is campaign,” Trump said as he rallied supporters in North Carolina. He cited comments Mrs. Obama made during her husband’s 2008 campaign in which she said someone who can’t run their own house can’t run the White House. “She’s the one that started that,” Trump said.
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The typically self-assured Trump was unusually candid about the possibility of losing the election, a prospect that’s grown in likelihood as Clinton solidifies her lead in battleground states that will decide the election. Trump said he is packing his schedule with campaign events through Election Day so he will know he spared no effort even if ultimately unsuccessful.
“I will be happy with myself,” he said.
Trump and Clinton were still sharply at odds over his unprecedented assertion in the final debate on Wednesday that he may not concede if he loses.
She said Friday at a Cleveland campaign stop, “Make no mistake, by doing that, he is threatening our democracy.” She said that America knows “the difference between leadership and dictatorship.”
Trump, meanwhile, has said he’s merely reserving the right to contest the results if the outcome is unclear or questionable. Underpinning his threat is his contention — presented with no evidence — that the election is “rigged” against him and may be soiled by widespread voter fraud. He’s urged supporters to “monitor” polling places for potential shenanigans.
Fanning those flames, Russia’s government has asked Oklahoma and two other states to allow Russian officials to be present at polling stations on Election Day, to study the “US experience in organization of voting process.” Allegations by the U.S. government that Russia is trying to influence the election by hacking Democratic groups has fed a Clinton camp claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is siding with Trump.
The Oklahoma secretary of state’s office said Friday it had denied the Russian request, in line with state law. At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said it was unclear what Moscow was trying to do.
“It’s appropriate that people might be suspicious of their motives,” Earnest said.
Early voting is underway in more than 30 states. Clinton, reaching for voters who may be reconsidering their support for Trump, said in Ohio that she knows they still have questions about her. “I want to answer them,” she said. “I want to earn your vote.”
With the final debate behind them, the two candidates appeared together Thursday night for likely the last time in the campaign, at a Catholic fundraiser that turned unusually hostile.
At the dinner, a tradition intended as a display of national unity, Trump drew boos when he referred to Clinton being “so corrupt” and said without apparent humor that she was appearing at the event “pretending not to hate Catholics.”
But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the New York archbishop seated between them at the dinner, described a less antagonistic moment backstage after he invited them to pray.
“After the little prayer, Mr. Trump tuned to Secretary Clinton and said, ‘You know, you are one tough and talented woman,’ and he said this has been a good experience,” Dolan told NBC’s “Today” on Friday. “And she said, ‘Donald, whatever happens, we need to work together afterwards.'”
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.