Attacks fly in sprint to the finish

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump each launched fresh attacks against the other on Monday, signaling that harshly negative closing arguments may dominate the final two weeks of the campaign.

Clinton’s campaign tried to build on its case that Trump doesn’t respect women, while Trump again questioned the integrity of the election process – this time asserting that polls showing Clinton ahead across the country are “phony” and “rigged.”

Perhaps the most intense rhetoric of the day came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of Clinton’s top allies, who said Trump’s disregard for women would be his undoing in the election. As Trump continued to suggest that he might not accept a Clinton victory on Nov. 8, Warren seemed to revel in the role that women may play not only in defeating him but also in electing the first female president in the nation’s history.

“I’ve got news for you, Donald Trump,” Warren said, standing on a windswept stage in this college town alongside Clinton and U.S. Senate candidate Maggie Hassan – and riffing on Trump’s reference to Clinton as a “nasty woman” during their third presidential debate. “Women have had it with guys like you. And nasty women have really had it with guys like you. Yeah, get this, Donald: Nasty women are tough, nasty women are smart, and nasty women vote.”

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Although the Clinton campaign has been working for weeks to portray Trump as a misogynist, allies and surrogates jumped on his latest utterance to continue the effort. Pop star Katy Perry wore a T-shirt emblazoned with “Nasty Woman” while knocking on dormitory doors at George Mason University in the Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia. Other merchandise, including cross-stitch pillows and coffee mugs, popped up for sale on the Internet.

“He thinks because he has a mouth full of Tic-Tacs that he can force himself on any woman within groping distance,” Warren said Monday, referring to a 2005 video in which Trump lewdly described forcing himself on women and then took the breath mints as he explained he liked to kiss women without asking permission.

With just 15 days left until Election Day, Trump spent Monday in Florida, telling supporters that the national media has deliberately skewed polls to undermine his candidacy and that he is actually winning.

During a discussion with farmers at Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market in Boynton Beach, Florida, Trump devoted nearly half of his seven-minute public remarks to criticizing the news media.

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“I believe we’re actually winning,” he said, speaking in a thatched-roof structure adorned with decorative gourds. He asserted that the majority of public opinion polls, which show Clinton leading nationally and in most battleground states, reflect the “crooked system, the rigged system I’ve been talking about since I entered the race.”

“What they do is they show these phony polls where they look at Democrats, and it’s heavily weighted with Democrats, and then they’ll put on a poll where we’re not winning, and everybody says, ‘Oh they’re not winning,’ ” he added.

His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, acknowledged Sunday that her candidate trails Clinton, saying, “We are behind.” But Trump said Monday that he trusts the two polls that have shown him leading – Investor’s Business Daily and Rasmussen – as more reliable.

Later Monday, as Trump campaigned in St. Augustine, Florida, his supporters said they were unfazed by Trump’s “nasty woman” comment or Warren’s attempts to raise it.

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“Pocahontas has lied before,” said Cleta Van Horn, 78, of St. Augustine, referring to a disparaging nickname Trump often applies to the senator from Massachusetts.

Van Horn was seated at the rally next to her daughter, Laura Nelson, 47, also of St. Augustine. Nelson said she also was not bothered by Trump’s remark and Democratic attempts to use it against him.

“I think they are overblowing everything,” said Nelson, who passionately waved a Trump-Pence sign over her head when the GOP nominee took the stage.

Among Clinton supporters, however, there was evidence of a ripple effect of Trump’s remark.

Diana Hess, a Clinton supporter who is now an advocate for people with disabilities, said that the phrase has ricocheted across her social circle on social media and elsewhere.

“My friends have been saying to me: ‘We’re nasty women who vote,’ ” said Hess, 58. “We took it as a call to action. Women don’t deserve to be treated the way they’ve been treated by Donald Trump.”

Trump then turned his fire on Clinton’s use of a personal email server while secretary of state. He said the FBI and Justice Department had inappropriately let her off the hook.

“We have to investigate the investigation, folks,” Trump said.

Trump on Monday also addressed the latest accusations of inappropriate sexual contact made against him, saying of the accuser, an adult film performer, “Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before.”

Calling into WGIR radio’s “New Hampshire Today,” Trump characterized the allegations against him as “total fiction,” including the behavior alleged by Jessica Drake. On Saturday, she accused Trump of grabbing her and kissing her without permission and offering her money to go up to his hotel room about a decade ago.

“She’s a porn star,” Trump said. “You know, this one that came out recently, ‘he grabbed me and he grabbed me on the arm.’ Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before.”

Trump also seized on a Wall Street Journal report that the political action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D, a leading Clinton supporter, gave $452,500 to a Northern Virginia state Senate candidate last year.

The candidate, Jill McCabe of Loudoun County, Virginia, is married to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who oversaw the bureau’s investigation into Clinton’s use of the private server. The state Democratic Party reportedly gave McCabe’s campaign another $207,788.

Trump called the donations “absolutely disgraceful” and alleged without presenting evidence that “Hillary knew this money was being paid.”

Aides to McAuliffe and others said Monday that the timeline of events was inconsistent with any suggestion of wrongdoing.

McAuliffe’s support of Jill McCabe was part of a much broader effort at the time to try to win back a Democratic majority in the Virginia Senate, and his PAC gave greater amounts to other candidates. At the time McAuliffe recruited Jill McCabe to run for office, her husband was in another job, and there was no publicly known FBI investigation into the Clinton emails.

By the time he was promoted to deputy director and assumed responsibility for the Clinton email investigation, his wife had been out of politics for several months.

Clinton and her backers sought to capitalize on Trump’s declining poll numbers by lifting up candidates lower on the ballot this fall. The appearance with Warren was also designed to promote the candidacy of Hassan, the current governor of New Hampshire who is challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R.

Warren’s appearance was part of the Clinton campaign’s effort to flood swing states with high-profile endorsers as the campaign comes to a close. It was also a tacit show of unity between Clinton and very liberal voters who consider Warren a champion and who, in New Hampshire, preferred liberal primary challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders over the moderate Clinton by a wide margin.

But mostly Warren, whose lines got louder applause than Clinton’s, was there as the best provocateur the Clinton campaign can field against Trump. He has engaged in several fierce attacks on Warren, often via Twitter.

“She gets under his thin skin like nobody else,” a delighted Clinton said at the start of her remarks.

Later Monday, Clinton was scheduled to attend a high-dollar fundraising party in Manhattan with a birthday theme and entertainment by singer and composer Stevie Wonder. Clinton turns 69 on Wednesday.

The New York event and another on Tuesday in South Florida are likely to be Clinton’s last in-person fundraisers of the campaign. They cap a 19-month run since she announced for president in April 2015 in which the candidate rarely went more than a few days without headlining some kind of event with paying guests. Clinton’s reliance on big checks from wealthy donors brought sharp criticism from primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier this year, but the strategy gave her an edge in fundraising over Trump.

President Barack Obama also plugged Clinton’s candidacy on Monday.

“The good news is that at the moment the polls show that Hillary is enjoying a lead,” Obama said outside a fundraiser in La Jolla, California. But he added that the “volatile” nature of the race meant that “we can’t take anything for granted.”

“There are a lot of states like Ohio and Florida that are way too close to call,” he said, adding that it was important to “make sure that people actually turn out to vote.”

Trump started the week with a focus on two critical states in the Southeast: Florida and North Carolina. In a sign of the intense battle over Florida, Trump’s plane and that of the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, were parked on the same Miami tarmac Monday.

Before leaving Miami, Trump did a radio interview with WBT Radio host Bo Thompson, making his case to listeners in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He accused the media of engaging in “a pile-on, the likes of which nobody’s ever seen.”

“I’m going to protect the people, and the media are the exact opposite, and they, you know, represent the opposite,” Trump said. He added he has a development near Charlotte that has been a “tremendous success” and would contribute to his winning the state. “So I understand North Carolina very well.”

Despite his claims elsewhere that he’s winning, Trump conceded during the interview that he’s trailing in the polls. But he also predicted an upset victory nonetheless.

“I think we’re gonna have a Brexit situation,” said, he referring to the British referendum in which voters unexpectedly decided to leave the European Union. “You know, that one was behind in the polls, and I guess I’m somewhat behind in the polls but not by much. I mean, in your state, I’m one point, two points and even in three polls. One point, two points and even.”

Trump also announced Monday that his Facebook page would start hosting “nightly campaign coverage from Trump Tower.”

He did something similar before the final debate, promoting a webcast featuring surrogates and a video message from his daughter Ivanka. The announcement comes as some observers have speculated that Trump might start a media venture if he is not elected president. He has sought to tamp down such speculation.

Sullivan reported from Florida. Wagner reported from Washington. Juliet Eilperin and Abby Phillip in Washington contributed to this report.