Confident Clinton switches focus to win Senate control

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Buoyant US presidential contender Hillary Clinton says she is looking past Donald Trump and widening her mission to help fellow Democrats seize the Senate and chip away at the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Though Mr Trump’s campaign insisted it was premature to count him out, it is Mrs Clinton whose path to winning the White House has grown only wider in the election race’s final weeks.

Even long-time Republican strongholds such as Utah and Arizona suddenly appear within her reach on November 8, enticing Democrats to campaign hard in territory they have not won for decades.

The shifting political map has freed Mrs Clinton and her well-funded campaign to spend time and money helping other Democrats in competitive races.

She said she did not “even think about responding” to brash billionaire Mr Trump any more and would instead spend the final weeks on the road “emphasising the importance of electing Democrats down the ballot”.

“We’re running a co-ordinated campaign, working hard with gubernatorial (governorship), Senate and House candidates,” said Robby Mook, her campaign manager.

After a merciless two-year campaign, the next president will face the daunting task of governing a bitterly divided nation.

If Mrs Clinton wins, her prospects for achieving her goals will be greatly diminished unless her victory is accompanied by major Democratic gains in congress.

“We’ve got to do the hard and maybe most important work of healing, healing our country,” she said on Sunday at Union Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina.

For Democrats, another reason to try to run up the score is that with Mr Trump warning he may contest the race’s outcome if he loses, an overwhelming Democratic victory would undermine any attempt to claim the election had been stolen from him.

In a rare admission of fallibility by the typically boastful Mr Trump, his campaign acknowledged he was trailing Mrs Clinton as election day neared.

“We are behind,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said. But she added: “We’re not giving up. We know we can win this.”

Ms Conway laid out in granular detail Mr Trump’s potential path to winning: victories in Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio, to start.

If he prevents Arizona and Georgia from falling to Democrats and adds in some combination of Colorado, Virginia, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, he could reach the 270 electoral votes needed, she noted.

But it will not be easy. A current Associated Press analysis of polling, demographic trends and other campaign data rates Virginia as solidly Democratic, while Colorado, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are all leaning Democratic. Arizona, remarkably, is a toss-up.

Campaigning in Florida, Mr Trump called for voters to elect a Republican House and Senate that would “swiftly enact” his priorities, which include overhauling taxes, restoring higher spending on defence and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“We can enact our whole plan in the first 100 days – and we will,” he said.

If Mrs Clinton wins, Democrats would need a net gain of four Senate seats to retake the majority. House control would be much harder – Democrats would need a 30-seat gain, a feat they have not accomplished in about 40 years.

Andrea Bozek of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate’s Republican campaign arm, said Mrs Clinton’s last-minute push to aid Democrats was insufficient to make up for her party’s shortfalls in recruiting competitive candidates this year.

“Democrats have relied on political gravity from the presidential race to carry them across the finish line,” she said.

Indeed, as Mrs Clinton campaigned in North Carolina, where Democrats hope to unseat Republican senator Richard Burr, her argument appeared to rest on the hopes that voters offended by Mr Trump would vote against Mr Burr, too.

She said the Democratic candidate and American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Deborah Ross knew that Mr Trump “is wrong for America”.

“Unlike her opponent, Deborah has never been afraid to stand up to Donald Trump,” Mrs Clinton said.

Still, Mrs Clinton’s campaign said she remained intent on reaching out to Republican voters and was specifically targeting politicians who had not denounced Mr Trump.

Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said the policies Mrs Clinton had prioritised for her first 100 days “are ones that Republicans should have every reason to work with us on”.

Meanwhile President Barack Obama flew to Nevada on Sunday to campaign for Mrs Clinton and Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto before heading to California to raise money for House Democrats.

He went after Ms Cortez Masto’s Republican opponent, Joe Heck, who said he could not support Mr Trump after a 2005 tape surfaced of Mr Trump using vulgar, predatory language about women.

But Mr Obama said Republican candidates were simply reacting to Mr Trump’s slipping poll numbers.

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