RALEIGH, N.C., and GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A confident Hillary Clinton spent her final day on the presidential campaign trail flanked by pop stars, her family and the Obamas, promising to try to heal the country if she’s elected president.
Across four rallies in three states, Clinton looked ahead to a potential victory, promising voters she would bring a divided country together as president and reflecting in the past tense on how ugly the campaign had been.
Donald Trump, expressing equal confidence, barnstormed across the country vowing to win Election Day, fundamentally change the country’s path and make his supporters’ dreams come true.
Both candidates’ promises culminated in a pair of rallies held in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
Speaking at 1 a.m. at North Carolina State University, Clinton shouted over the deafening cheers and foot-stomping of thousands of young supporters, who had been warmed up with performances by Lady Gaga and Jon Bon Jovi — including a duet of “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
“This is sure worth staying up for,” she said, taking in the crowd.
“Tomorrow night this election will end, but I want you to understand, our work together will be just beginning,” Clinton said. “We have to bridge the divides in this country. As the Bible says, we have to repair the breaches.”
It was a lesson Clinton hammered home again and again on her final day on the trail as she cast herself as a leader who could heal the nation after a long and brutal campaign. “We have so much divisiveness right now,” she said at a rally near Grand Rapids, Mich. “We have to start listening to each other.”
She reminded her supporters that she wanted to be the president for “everyone,” not just those who vote for her.
“I regret deeply how angry the tone of the campaign became,” Clinton said at the largest event of her entire candidacy: another Monday rally with the Obamas and Bruce Springsteen that drew 33,000 people to Independence Mall in Philadelphia.
A supporter screamed out, “Not your fault!” Clinton laughed.
Meanwhile, Trump took the stage at 12:30 a.m. in Grand Rapids, Mich., in a setting that was typical of any other one of his rallies this season: a sterile, bright convention hall, featuring a simple stage with an American flag, a bleacher full of people behind him and a podium.
Two hours earlier, Trump had appeared at what his campaign had originally envisioned as his send-off to his unlikely bid for the presidency: a large arena rally in downtown Manchester, N.H., surrounded by thousands of people, including his family, and a stage marked by laser lights and a fog machine.
But in the waning days of the campaign, as Trump sought to find a path to 270 electoral votes, his campaign added a last-minute stop here in Michigan, hoping to turn a traditional blue state red for the first time since 1988. It was the ninth state he visited in a little over 24 hours.
“If you think you’re going to get a regular speech at 1 a.m., you’re crazy,” Trump declared as he took the stage. But that’s exactly what the GOP nominee gave: the same stump speech he’s been giving for weeks.
Introduced by his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP nominee attacked “crooked” Hillary Clinton as a slave to special interests. He called her a corrupt politician whose use of a private email server is likely to spawn investigations that will stymie her potential presidency.
In contrast, he cast himself as a change agent who could blow up a corrupt system who could turn the nation’s focus back to helping struggling blue-collar workers whose jobs have been gutted by American companies moving overseas.
Echoing the message that launched his once unlikely White House bid more than a year ago, Trump reiterated his promise to undo trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA. His pitch was clearly aimed at stirring up workers in what is one of the more conservative parts of the state.
“The corrupt politicians and their special interests have ruled over this country for a very long time,” Trump declared, reading from prepared remarks. “Today is our independence day. Today the American working class is going to strike back finally.”
“We are hours away from once-in-a-lifetime change,” he said.
But Trump being Trump, he couldn’t resist breaking from the script. And he did so repeatedly, again attacking Clinton for campaigning with celebrities in the days leading up to Election Day. The former reality television star suggested her decision to campaign with Jay Z and Beyoncé was “demeaning” to the political process.
“We don’t need Jay Z or Beyoncé. We don’t need Jon Bon Jovi. We don’t need Lady Gaga. All we need is great ideas to make America great again. That’s all that we need,” Trump said.
But the event offered some embarrassing optics for Trump, who is banking on the support of his faithful followers to propel him to the White House. Almost as soon as the candidate took the stage, hundreds of the few thousand supporters on hand began filing out of the room.
They passed through an exit lane directly in front of the press corps, staring at reporters across a barricade as if they were on exhibit. Questioned why they were exiting, some pointed to the late hour, while others said they were trying to beat traffic. Some said they’d seen enough.
But Trump pressed on. He declared imminent victory, pointing to the 16 primary challengers he’d defeated when many wrote off his candidacy as a joke. He said he had trust in his supporters to turn out for him. “I know my people,” he said, adding, “If we win Michigan, we win this historic election.”
Clinton’s jubilant final day sounded a lighter note than either Trump’s or the final slog of the general election, in which Clinton weathered the storm of her campaign chair John Podesta’s email inbox being made public by a cyberattack.
She took a dominating lead in the final weeks of the race, but the race tightened in the closing stretch. Ten days before Election Day, FBI Director James Comey announced that he would review new emails that appeared “pertinent” to the bureau’s investigation of the private email server Clinton exclusively used while secretary of state. The surprise twist injected Trump’s candidacy with a shot of adrenaline.
But Clinton has since rebounded a bit in the polls, though it’s still a close race: As of Tuesday morning, the RealClearPolitics average of national surveys had her up 3 points over Trump. And Comey announced Sunday that investigators had reviewed the emails and found nothing to change his conclusion from last July that neither Clinton nor her aides should face charges.
With these hurdles behind her, victory — and what comes next — appeared to be on Clinton’s mind Monday. The Democratic nominee answered a question from entertainer Ryan Seacrest on his radio show that morning about whether she expected to speak to Trump if she wins. “Oh, absolutely,” she said. “I hope that he will, if I’m successful, play a constructive role in … coming together — bring people who supported him to the table so that we can have the kind of national conversation we should have.”
Clinton brought her longtime aide Huma Abedin back on the trail for the first time since Comey’s announcement. Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, was the source of the new emails, which the FBI reportedly found while investigating whether he sent lewd messages to an underage girl. On Monday night, Abedin was spotted on Clinton’s plane flying between Philadelphia and Raleigh, the same leg that Jon Bon Jovi jumped on for as well.
The Clintons appeared to be in high spirits aboard their plane after the Philadelphia event. Clinton’s press corps shouted questions at her and former President Bill Clinton from their cabin in the back of the plane. Both Clintons pretended not to hear the reporters, with Hillary Clinton playfully cupping her hand over her ear before turning back and taking her seat.
When she landed in Westchester County at 3:30 a.m. after the marathon final day, Clinton was greeted by hundreds of staffers and supporters who had waited for her on the cold tarmac. “Welcome home!” they chanted, before she emerged from her “Stronger Together”-branded plane to the theme of “Fight Song.” Clinton shook hands and said hellos for a few minutes as Secret Service agents and her aides, including Abedin, shadowed her. The Democratic nominee turned away from the crowd and gave Podesta a big hug, as if to thank him for something.
She then got into her car and was whisked away to her home.