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Clinton, Trump tangle over economy

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 photos. At times it has seemed as though this presidential campaign was occurring in some alternate universe. Up is down, no means yes, day is night. Trump’s tweets, speeches, interviews, debate statements, news conferences and off-the-cuff remarks _ that is, pretty much every utterance made during his waking hours _ have been a source of hyperbole at hyper-speed. His misstatements have been so ubiquitous that Clinton’s slippery words often slithered right on by unnoticed. (AP Photo)

CLEVELAND/HERSHEY, Pennsylvania – Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump battled over the strength of the economy in the final stretch of their race for the White House on Friday, with Clinton praising the latest US jobs report and Trump dismissing it as a fraudulent disaster.

With four days left in an often bitter contest that has tightened considerably in the last week, each candidate attacked the other as unfit to be president in a late push for votes in battleground states that could decide the outcome in Tuesday’s election.

Clinton leads Trump by five percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll released on Friday, maintaining her advantage in the national survey even as the race tightens in several crucial swing states.

In the October 30-Novembe 3 opinion poll, 44 percent of likely voters supported Clinton while 39 percent supported Trump.

At a rally in Pittsburgh, Clinton cited the government’s latest jobs report as evidence of the economy’s strength. The report showed higher wages for workers as well as the creation of 161,000 jobs in October and a fall in the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent from five percent.

“I believe our economy is poised to really take off and thrive,” Clinton told the gathering, after being introduced by billionaire investor Mark Cuban. “When the middle class thrives, America thrives.”

Trump disputed Clinton’s rosy view, telling a crowd in New Hampshire that the jobs report was “an absolute disaster” and was skewed by the large number of people who have stopped looking for jobs and are no longer in the labor market.

“Nobody believes the numbers anyway. The numbers they put out are phony,” he said of the figures released by the Labor Department at a rally in Atkinson.

The economy and the candidates’ competing visions for the future could be critical in swaying voters in ailing Rust Belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Both candidates made stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania on Friday, with Trump adding a stop in New Hampshire and Clinton adding one in Michigan. Each of those states is critical in the state-by-state quest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

The race has tightened significantly in the past week, as several swing states that are considered must-wins for Trump shifted from favoring Clinton to toss-ups, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project.

The two candidates are now tied in Florida and North Carolina, and Clinton’s lead in Michigan has narrowed so much that the state is too close to call. Ohio remains a dead heat, and Clinton has a slight lead in Pennsylvania.

Clinton is still the favorite to win Tuesday’s election, with a clearer path to winning of the Electoral College. But Trump now has a plausible route to victory, especially if there is a sharp fall in turnout among African-Americans from the levels of the 2012 election. (Reuters)

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