Presidential Election: Early Voting Shapes Campaign’s Final Weekend

Presidential Election: Early Voting Shapes Campaign’s Final Weekend

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Except there is no such thing as Election Day any longer, as more than 33 million Americans had already voted as of Friday. The explosive growth in early voting has transformed presidential politics and put a premium on state-level organization. It also is a driving force in determining where the candidates spend the final days of the campaign.

Here are some of the things we will be watching for on Saturday:

Both Clinton and Trump begin their day in Florida, where early voting ends in some counties on Saturday evening.

Mrs. Clinton’s afternoon rally in Pembroke Pines, an increasingly diverse community in Broward County, is aimed at driving South Florida’s mix of Hispanic, black, Caribbean and Jewish voters to cast an early vote. Mr. Trump planned to use a morning rally in Tampa, one of the country’s bellwether cities, to energize his loyalists and persuade the dwindling number of fence-sitters.

Analyses of the early vote suggest a highly competitive finish — fitting for the state that brought us the 2000 recount — but with Hispanics voting in far greater numbers than they did four years ago. If those voters break to Mrs. Clinton, it could be difficult for Mr. Trump to win Florida.

And that could effectively decide the election. Mr. Trump has virtually no path to 270 electoral votes without the 29 from the biggest swing state of them all.

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Voting Early, and in Droves: Over 22 Million Ballots Are Already In

With eight days until the general election, more than 22 million people have already voted, through absentee ballots and early voting.



OPEN Graphic


Trump goes west in a push to win Nevada and Colorado.

Taking advantage of the time zones, Mr. Trump had evening events scheduled Saturday in Reno and Denver. Strategists in both parties were somewhat puzzled by the trip west — and not just because Nevada’s early vote period ended on Friday.

Nevada and Colorado are both increasingly filled with new voters, some of them immigrants and others transplants from other states. They have made the once conservative-leaning states far more friendly to Democrats. In other words, these are not good fits for Mr. Trump’s style of hard-edge populism.

Yet some recent public polling has indicated that both states have tightened, and Mrs. Clinton signaled she was at least somewhat concerned when she decided to resume airing TV ads in Colorado for the first time since summer. But if Mr. Trump loses the race because he only narrow lost the older and whiter Rust Belt states, he may regret continuing to spend time and money in Western states with more forbidding demographics.

Clinton looks to dash Republicans’ Pennsylvania dreams again.

No state has been so tempting, yet so elusive, for Republicans than Pennsylvania. Mitt Romney made a last-minute trip there four years ago when it was clear he needed to find an alternate path to 270, and Mr. Trump has refused to give up on it despite every public poll showing that he’s losing there.

He was there on Friday, rallying voters in Hershey. It is this central part of the state — what the Democratic strategist James Carville once cracked was the Alabama that stood between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — that has kept Mr. Trump somewhat competitive.

Yet Pennsylvania elections are won and lost not in the “T” between the two cities, but rather in the heavily populated Philadelphia region.

Mrs. Clinton has been dominant there in the polls, benefiting from the mix of suburban moderates and liberal city voters. But there is no in-person early vote in the state so data-obsessed Democrats are somewhat uneasy about where they actually stand. In particular, they are concerned about turnout among millennials and African-Americans tapering off from Barack Obama’s two wins.

The solution: Mrs. Clinton is coming to Philadelphia twice in the campaign’s closing days, once with the pop singer Katy Perry on Saturday night and then, in a flashing neon sign of continuity, with the president and Michelle Obama on Monday evening for one final pre-election rally.

Will the campaigns go out on a high note or end low?

Presidential candidates typically turn away from scorched-earth attacks to a more uplifting closing message in the final hours of a campaign. But this hasn’t been a typical campaign.

And given how much Mrs. Clinton has benefited from antipathy toward Mr. Trump, she may be loath to stop reminding voters what they dislike about him — especially as she looks to nudge people to the polls in the final window of early voting.

But it would be a sign of Mrs. Clinton’s confidence that she has 270 electoral votes in hand if she turns away from her attacks on Mr. Trump and toward more unifying themes as Tuesday nears.

Mr. Trump, it is safe to say, will not stop blistering Mrs. Clinton.

Does a campaign full of unexpected twists have one more to offer up?

Predicting unknown unknowns, as Donald Rumsfeld called them, is impossible. One arrived on Friday that could benefit Mrs. Clinton.

After a difficult week following the F.B.I.’s decision to continue investigating her email practices as secretary of state, her campaign was happy to have a more favorable surprise: a jury’s decision to convict two former aides to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on all counts in George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. Mr. Christie, who has been heading Mr. Trump’s transition team, canceled appearances Saturday he had planned to make on the nominee’s behalf.

Further, it was a diversion from the near-daily leaks from the F.B.I. about Mrs. Clinton and the release of John D. Podesta’s hacked emails by WikiLeaks.

But there may be a bigger bombshell yet to explode.

Don’t forget, it was in the final weekend of the election in 2004 when a video featuring Osama bin Laden was released that reminded voters of the terror threat — and helped lift George W. Bush in a tight race.

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