RALEIGH, N.C. — The frenzied last leg of the 2016 presidential campaign culminated after midnight Monday in rival late-night rallies coursing with anger and emotion, as Donald Trump hammered Hillary Clinton as corrupt and Clinton cast the election as “the test of our time.”
Clinton closed her campaign with an energetic rally in Raleigh, accompanied by former president Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea. Singer Lady Gaga performed for an audience that nearly to a person raised hands when asked how many had voted early.
North Carolina’s results are expected to be extremely close, and the surprise addition of Hillary Clinton’s midnight rally suggested a degree of worry for Democrats. After the election ends, she told voters around 1 a.m., “I want you to understand, our work together will be just beginning.”
Meanwhile, Trump took the stage at his final pre-election rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning — capping a five-state final push that started in Florida on Monday morning and weaved though North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
“Today is our independence day. Today the American working class is going to strike back,” he told the late-night audience that gathered at a convention center to hear him speak.
Well before Trump was done speaking, a substantial portion of Trump’s crowd started making its way toward the exits.
In his remarks, the Republican nominee said it was “almost hard to believe” that Election Day had arrived, as he reflected back to the beginning of the Republican primary and the many candidates he faced and eventually defeated.
“Now we have one flawed candidate left to beat,” he said. Before finishing, he told voters: “Go to bed. Go to bed right now, get up and vote.”
Clinton ended her presidential bid with a tableau of Democratic stars, warning more than 33,000 supporters who gathered in Philadelphia on Monday that “every issue that you care about is at stake.”
Joined there by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, the Democratic nominee pivoted away from the email controversy that dogged much of her campaign and cast the election as a choice “between division and unity.”
“We choose to believe in a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America,” she said.
Her message was echoed by Obama, who told the massive crowd, “I’m betting that tomorrow you will reject fear and you will choose hope.”
Michelle Obama, widely regarded as Clinton’s most effective surrogate, spoke emotionally about the prospect of electing the first woman president.
“Speaking here tonight is the last and most important thing I can do for my country as first lady,” she said.
Warning that the presidential campaigns are “breathtakingly close,” Michelle Obama declared that the election “is in our hands.”
“If we get out and vote tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will win,” she said. “But if we stay home or we play around with a protest vote, then Hillary’s opponent will win. Period, end of story.”
Around the same time, Trump took the stage to a flashy laser light show in a crowded arena in Manchester, N.H., that seats roughly 11,000. “Tomorrow, the American working class will strike back!” he declared.
“Do you want America to be ruled by the corrupt political class, or do you want America to be ruled again by the people?” asked the GOP nominee to loud cheers, adding: “Hillary Clinton’s only allegiance is to herself, her donors and her special interests.”
“Lock her up!” the crowd began chanting moments later.
Earlier Monday, a rowdy crowd in Scranton, Pa., shouted, “She’s a witch!” and “She’s a demon!”as Trump berated Clinton. When he began to lambast the news media as dishonest, the audience erupted into a thunderous chant of “CNN sucks!”
The Republican nominee said that the fact that the FBI had already completed its examination of newly discovered emails connected to Clinton proved that the judicial system was “rigged.” He urged voters to “deliver justice at the ballot box.”
FBI Director James B. Comey said Sunday that the FBI had found nothing to alter its months-old decision not to seek charges against the former secretary of state for her use of a private email server.
While Clinton’s final rallies were headlined by singers Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga, Trump was joined in Manchester by his children and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
“I had my family, I had the best surrogates,” Trump said before asking his startled daughter Ivanka to speak on behalf of the family.
“I was not planning on speaking tonight, but I did want to be here on this last night, prior to Election Day, to support my father,” she said. “I am so incredibly proud of him ... and I know tomorrow will be another great day.”
As election day drew near, Clinton appeared narrowly ahead in most polls, and her campaign officials pointed to heavy turnout among Hispanics and Asians in crucial swing states, such as Florida and North Carolina, as evidence that the race was moving in their direction.
More than 6.4 million voters in Florida have voted early, up nearly 35 percent from 2012, according to the Clinton campaign, with big early surges in majority Hispanic Miami Dade county. More broadly, the Clinton campaign said that early voter turnout was breaking records — with more than 41 million Americans casting ballots before Election Day
“We are on the path to see more Americans vote than we have ever seen in our history,” Clinton said in Pittsburgh. “If the lines are long tomorrow, please wait.”
The Justice Department said Monday that it would deploy more than 500 poll-watchers from its Civil Rights Division to monitor voting in 67 jurisdictions in 28 states, including at least three in each of the swing states. Many of the jurisdictions have large Native American, black, Latino and Muslim populations
The department said its lawyers would be working to enforce federal voting rights laws “to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.” It also has a hotline (toll free at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-3931) to register complaints.
In the last few days of the campaign, Trump has invested time and resources in blue-leaning states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Most recent opinion polls show Clinton leading in all three, but Trump is hoping for a surge among white voters who lack college degrees.
The real estate developer told crowd after crowd Monday that he was on track to victory, urging his supporters to ignore the “phony stuff” in the media.
Trump continued to erroneously assert that he had given “over $100 million” of his personal funds to finance his campaign. (In fact, he donated a little more than $66 million, according to Federal Election Commission reports.)
“If we don’t win, I will consider this the single greatest waste of time, energy … and money,” Trump said in Raleigh, adding, “If we don’t win, honestly, we’ve all wasted our time.”
Both Trump and Clinton scrambled across the country Monday, appearing within hours of each other in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Raleigh.
Clinton held four rallies in three states: North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
The appearances reflect an electoral map that seemed to shift in the wake of Comey’s announcement of the new emails nine days earlier. Clinton, who had been trying to expand the electoral map by focusing on red states that included Georgia and Arizona, has turned back to defend blue turf such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.
In an election eve push to seal Virginia for the Democrats, vice-presidential hopeful Sen. Tim Kaine urged a home state crowd in Fairfax to make history by helping to elect the first woman president. He was joined by Vice President Biden, who extended an olive branch to Trump and his supporters.
“I’ve been tough on Donald Trump, as tough as anyone. But when this election is over, we have got to let it go,” Biden said.
“God willing, we are going to win this, but there are a lot of people who are going to vote for Donald Trump, we have to figure out why, what’s eating at them,” he added.
For his part, Obama appeared in Michigan several hours ahead of Clinton and used his remarks to praise the Democratic nominee and tout his work in the first term to bolster the country’s then-sputtering auto industry.
“I think I’ve earned some credibility here,” Obama said of his efforts to shore up the auto industry. When it comes to voting for Clinton on Tuesday, he continued, “I am asking you to trust me on this one.”
Later in the day, in Durham, N.H., Obama grew reflective, noting that it was his final solo rally as president. He recounted the story of Edith Childs, the Greenwood, S.C., city councilwoman who coined the 2008 Obama campaign slogan “Fired Up! Ready to Go!” — the same story he told at his last rally on the eve of his first election.
“It’s not often you have a chance to shape history. The world is watching us,” the president told thousands of cheering supporters who filled an arena at the University of New Hampshire.
“This is one of those moments,” Obama added. “Don’t let it slip away.”
Gearan reported from Pittsburgh and Grand Rapids, Mich.; Sullivan from Raleigh, Sarasota, Fla., and Manchester, N.H.; and Gold from Washington. Abigail Hauslohner and David Weigel in Washington; Fenit Nirappil in Fairfax, Va.; and David Nakamura in Durham, N.H., contributed to this report.