ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A defiant Donald Trump blamed his worsening campaign struggles on “phony polls” from the “disgusting” media on Monday, fighting to energize his most loyal supporters as his path to the presidency shrinks.
Just 14 days until the election, the Republican nominee campaigned in battleground Florida as his team conceded publicly as well as privately that crucial Pennsylvania may be slipping away. That would leave a razor-thin pathway to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House on Nov. 8.
Despite continued difficulties with women and minorities, Trump refuses to soften his message in the campaign’s final days to broaden his coalition. The strategy leaves no margin for error. Yet Trump offered an optimistic front in the midst of a three-day tour through Florida as thousands began voting in person.
“I believe we’re actually winning,” Trump declared during a round table discussion with farmers gathered next to a local pumpkin patch.
A day after suggesting the First Amendment to the Constitution may give the press too much freedom, he insisted that the media are promoting biased polls to discourage his supporters from voting.
“The media isn’t just against me. They’re against all of you,” Trump told cheering supporters later in St. Augustine. “They’re against what we represent.”
With Trump on the defensive, Democrat Hillary Clinton worked to slam the door on his candidacy in swing state New Hampshire while eyeing a possible Democratic majority in the Senate.
The former secretary of state campaigned alongside New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for the Senate, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was merciless as she seized on Trump’s history of predatory sexual language and several allegations of misconduct.
“He thinks that because he has a mouth full of Tic Tacs, he can force himself on any woman within groping distance,” Warren charged. “I’ve got news for you Donald: Women have had it with guys like you.”
Trump has denied a pile of recent allegations, and he addressed a new one Monday in an interview with WGIR radio in New Hampshire.
He called the allegations “total fiction” and lashed out at former adult film performer Jessica Drake, who said Saturday that he had grabbed and kissed her without permission and offered her money to visit his hotel room a decade ago.
“One said, `He grabbed me on the arm.’ And she’s a porn star,” Trump said. He added, “Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before.”
With Election Day two weeks away, Trump’s electoral map looks bleak.
The Republican National Committee ignored him altogether in mailers to New Hampshire voters set to be distributed later this week, according to material obtained by The Associated Press. The mail focuses instead on Clinton’s credibility, featuring a picture of her and former President Bill Clinton and the words, “No More of The Lying Clintons.”
Trump’s team has publicly acknowledged in recent days that he’s behind.
His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway outlined a path to 270 electoral votes on Sunday that banks on victories in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina along with New Hampshire and Maine’s 2nd congressional district. Assuming Trump wins all of those – and he currently trails in some – he would earn the exact number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency and no more.
Noticeably absent from the list was Pennsylvania, a state that a top adviser privately conceded was slipping away despite Trump’s aggressive courtship of white working-class voters. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal discussions.
Florida was largely the focus on Monday as in-person early voting began across 50 counties, including the state’s largest: Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach. Remaining counties will start in the coming week.
Early voting by mail has been underway for weeks. Nearly 1.2 million voters in Florida have already mailed in ballots.
Clinton plans to visit Tuesday and Wednesday, while her running mate, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, was making two Florida appearances on Monday. He took a shot at Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in the first, a reminder that Clinton’s team is fighting to retake a Senate majority.
Kaine noted that Rubio previously called Trump a dangerous “con artist,” though the senator currently supports him. If someone can’t condemn Trump, Kaine said, “you’ve got to ask the question whether they’re the right person to represent you.”
Democrats would take the Senate majority if they pick up four seats.
Trump’s difficulties are evident in this week’s travel plans, which include a possible stop in Arizona. A Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won there in 20 years, yet polls show Trump in a close race.
Republicans look worse in New Hampshire, a state Trump must win in the scenario his campaign manager outlined.
“He’s going to lose, although not by that much,” said Republican strategist Ryan Williams, who works closely with New Hampshire Republicans.
“Women voters can sway elections here,” he said. “And he’s doing nothing to reach out to them.”