ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) — A defiant Donald Trump blamed his 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.
With 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 to Democrat Hillary Clinton. That would leave him only 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. Yet he offered an optimistic front in the midst of a three-day tour through Florida as thousands began voting there 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 journalists 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.”
In more bad news for Trump, a new poll shows young voters turning to Clinton now that the race has settled down to two main candidates. Clinton now leads among likely voters 18 to 30 years in age by 60 percent to 19 percent, according to a new GenForward survey.
Young black voters already were solidly in her corner, and now young whites are moving her way, according to the survey by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
With Trump on the defensive, Democrat 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 recent revelations of Trump’s predatory sexual language and several allegations of sexual assault.
“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 all the recent allegations, and he addressed a new one Monday in an interview with WGIR radio in New Hampshire.
He called the accusations “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 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 the state’s white working-class voters. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal discussions.
And though the map looks tricky and the race is in its penultimate week, Trump is taking a break from the campaign to attend the official grand opening of his new Washington hotel on Wednesday.
Florida was largely the focus Monday as in-person early voting began across 50 counties, including the state’s largest. 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 Sen. Tim Kaine, made two Florida appearances 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.
Democrats would take the Senate majority if they pick up four seats and Clinton wins the White House.
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.
“Women voters can sway elections here,” said Republican strategist Ryan Williams. “And he’s doing nothing to reach out to them.”
In Nevada, GOP strategist Robert Uithoven said early voting numbers are a worrisome sign for Trump’s campaign, which has already been lagging in polls in the Silver State. In the first two days of early voting, nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans cast ballots.
“He’s already found himself in a really deep hole,” Uithoven said of Trump.