It’s Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the campaign trail has taken a toll on Hillary Clinton’s voice. “It’s an all or nothing moment for America,” Ms. Clinton shouts hoarsely from the stage after being introduced by self-made billionaire and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban.
Surrounded by female voters young and old, Clinton briefly remarks on the Pittsburg Steelers and how much she appreciates the support of from the team’s longtime owner, Dan Rooney.
If talking about sports has long been a strategy of connecting with the average American, it also underscores the image of American politics as an immeasurably high stakes game played by true professionals. And Ms. Clinton, a veteran player, appears to be sticking with the game plan.
At the same time in Wilmington, Ohio, Donald Trump is doubling down on various campaign promises to a rowdy crowd of mostly white, male supporters. While Mr. Trump might be the amateur to Ms. Clinton’s professional, the atmosphere in Wilmington, like at other Trump rallies, is far more the rabid sports event than what Hillary Clinton has to offer.
Brimming with a combination of anger and excitement, the crowd is galvanized by Mr. Trump’s renewed promises to beat “Crooked Hillary” and “drain up the swamp in Washington D.C.”
Indeed, draining the swamp appears to have become an overarching theme of Trump’s recent appearances; a kind of man-made climate change promise to do away with all those pesky, mosquito-like rules and regulations born in Washington D.C.
Calls to lower taxes and prevent Syrian immigrants from entering the United States further rev up a crowd that may have a very hard time calming down should their candidate lose the election.
But with four days to go until election day, neither candidate is worried about striking conciliatory tones. Rather, Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton are smack in the middle of “barnstorming”: traveling across the country at a breakneck pace during the final days of the campaign and giving as many speeches to as many crowds as they possibly can.
Naturally, much of the emphasis is on swing states, those states that often decide U.S. elections as they swing between Democrats and Republicans, like Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina.
Blanketing these states also involves calling on prominent supporters to help them make their respective pitches. For Hillary Clinton, that has meant appearing with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, as well as current President Barack Obama and former rival Bernie Sanders.
Beyond politicians however, Ms. Clinton also seems to have the support of giants in the American entertainment industry. This week alone, the Democratic nominee has appeared with the likes of superstar producer Pharrell Williams in Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as R&B queen Beyoncé and rapper Jay-Z in Cleveland, Ohio.
While Jay-Z expressed that he has no “ill will” for Donald Trump, he also criticized the deeply discordant political atmosphere the Republican candidate had created: “His conversation is divisive. That’s not an evolved soul for me. He cannot be my president.”
For Mr. Trump on the other hand, despite a lifetime of hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, finding likeable famous people to support him publicly has been more of a challenge. Which is perhaps why he has once again turned to his wife, the former model Melania Trump, to join him at the podium.
How much of an effect she will have on undecided voters is unclear, but her husband has been closing the gap with Hillary Clinton ever since the FBI announced it would be reinvestigating Ms. Clinton’s use of a private email server last week.
The candidates won’t need to win the popular vote but score wins in each of the U.S. 50 states to capture the presidency. According to CNN’s recent analysis of the “electoral college” map, a Hillary Clinton victory could be plagued by an inability to reach the 270 vote majority of the 538 total votes needed to become elected president.
Current projections have her at 268 votes, while Mr. Trump is hovering at around 204. In the U.S. college system, voters don’t vote for candidates directly, but rather state by state. The candidate with the majority of votes in each state then receives all of the state’s electoral votes in winner-take-all fashion. The number of electoral votes in each state depends on population.
Some are attributing Trump’s recent comeback to his new found fondness for “sticking to the script” – that is, discussing his platforms and political promises without creating new scandals. In Ohio, it seems to be working.
With both large African-American and working-class white populations, the state has gone from being a battleground to Republican-leaning. The same goes for Maine and Utah. New Hampshire, which had previously been seen as a probable win for Democrats, now appears up for grabs. But once again, Florida remains the most important state of all. There Ms. Clinton leads by the extremely narrow 1-point margin of 47% to Mr. Trump’s 46%.
Mr. Trump would need to win Florida in order to have any chance at capturing the presidency. But if early voting is any indication, this could be difficult. Around 5 million Floridians – and 30 million Americans in total – have already cast early ballots, most of them before the FBI’s announcement of a renewed investigation into Ms. Clinton’s emails.
And nationally, the number of early voters is significantly higher than in the 2012 election. But with a total of 200 million Americans registered to vote in a year full of surprises, all bets are off.