WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Twelve days ahead of the presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton warned her supporters against complacency because, she said, the contest against Republican Donald Trump is likely to be closer than the latest polls suggest.
Clinton, appearing on the campaign trail for the first time with First Lady Michelle Obama, urged voters to stay engaged and vote because the outcome remains uncertain.
“Let’s go out and win this election!” Clinton exclaimed at a rally at Wake Forest University in front of about 11,000 people. “Let’s make sure we vote early. Vote as soon as you can. Vote this afternoon!”
Michelle Obama also warned supporters to remain engaged, accusing Republicans of actively seeking to suppress turnout by making the election “so dirty and ugly that we don’t want any part of it.”
The first lady then told the crowd: “When you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying that this election is rigged, understand that they are trying to get you to stay home. They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter, that the outcome has already been determined and that you shouldn’t even bother to make your voice heard.”
With less than two weeks to go, Clinton holds a six-point edge over Trump among an electorate fixated on the campaign and nervous about their candidate losing, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll.
More than three in four Clinton and Trump supporters say they are “very anxious” at the thought of the other candidate becoming president, fears that underscore perceptions of the election’s high stakes and stark contrast between contenders.
The Post-ABC Tracking poll finds 57 percent of registered voters are following the election “very closely” and 85 percent say they’re absolutely certain to vote or have already cast ballots. Both measures are similar to four years ago, and nearly identical percentages of Clinton and Trump supporters are reporting high attention to the race.
The poll underscores how widespread concerns about Clinton make it difficult for her to expand beyond a single-digit edge over Trump, as well as Trump’s continuing challenges in appealing beyond a core base of supporters.
Clinton’s and Obama’s joint appearance came on a day when Trump made three stops in another battleground state, Ohio, where he sought to build on a reed-thin lead. The race has tightened in several battlegrounds in recent polls, notably in Florida, Nevada and North Carolina.
In Toledo, Trump jokingly suggested that the election should be scrapped because Clinton would make such a poor president.
“We should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right?” the Republican presidential nominee asked supporters while campaigning in this midwestern industrial city. “What are we even having it for? Her policies are so bad!”
Trump also said he would work on “the ghettos” of America if he is elected.
Campaigning in Springfield, Ohio, Trump renewed his attacks on Clinton’s stamina, claiming that she appeared “tired” after the last two debates and implying that she was on the verge of needing physical assistance.
At an afternoon rally in a sprawling barn, Trump called Clinton “a low energy person.” Then, without presenting evidence, he claimed that she was in bad shape after their most recent debates.
“I watched after the last debate and after the second debate. She was tired, wow. She walked off that stage, of course she had a lot of people around; they had a lot of people around her, which was smart,” Trump said.
No evidence has emerged that Clinton was suffering physically during or after the debates.
For Clinton, Thursday was all about borrowing from Michelle Obama’s star power. When the current and past first ladies took the stage together here, it was a moment of mutual admiration that the country had never seen before.
“First ladies, we rock,” Obama said, turning to Clinton as the arena roared its approval at the site of two women, previously supportive spouses — and now political forces in their own right.
Obama delivered a resounding endorsement of her predecessor in the East Wing, who is also the woman seeking to succeed Obama’s husband in the White House. She championed Clinton as the most prepared and qualified person to ever seek the office.
“Yes, more than Barack, more than Bill, she said. “So she is absolutely ready to be commander in chief on Day One.”
Clinton is hoping that some of Obama’s magnetism and support among young people and African Americans can help consolidate a lead in North Carolina. The first lady has emerged as perhaps the Democrats’ most powerful and effective voice opposing Trump, and Clinton frequently quotes the first lady’s admonition to “go high” when critics “go low.”
In a sign of the power of Obama’s appeal, the Clinton campaign booked a huge stadium for Clinton’s first in-person campaign event with the first lady. The campaign cited a local fire marshal for the crowd estimate of 11,000 people at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, more than twice the size of most of the recent events Clinton has held alone.
Clinton appeared to joke about President and Michelle Obama’s reputation as a “cool” couple and the contrast with herself. She noted that she had enjoyed seeing the first couple dance.
Aside from Clinton’s health, Trump also took aim at the Clintons’ charitable foundation and financial dealings, pointing to private communications released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, including a memo by top Bill Clinton aide Doug Band.
“The more emails WikiLeaks releases, the more lines between the Clinton Foundation, the secretary of state’s office and the Clintons’ personal finances, they all get blurred,” Trump said.
Band’s memo detailed what he called “Clinton Inc.,” a web of lucrative business ventures and overlapping charitable work. The memo was discovered in hacked emails from John Podesta, who is now chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
In an interview published Thursday by Billboard magazine, Bill Clinton weighed in on Trump’s criticisms, saying that the attacks on his foundation are frustrating.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, visited Omaha and western Iowa, while Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the Democratic vice presidential candidate, also campaigned in Ohio.
Kaine told supporters in Lorain, Ohio, that the state could seal the election for Clinton.
“You guys are more than a battleground. You are a checkmate state,” Kaine said. “If you win it, you done won it. If we win Ohio, the race is over.”
Polling released Thursday afternoon by Quinnipiac University showed the tick-tock nature of the race in the closing days. According to the poll, Trump holds a one-point edge over Clinton in Georgia — 44 percent to 43 percent — but they’re tied at 44 percent each in Iowa. In North Carolina, Clinton holds a four-point advantage (47 percent to 43 percent), while she holds a 12-point edge in Virginia.
In a sign of how competitive the race remains in Florida, Clinton is scheduled to campaign Saturday night in Miami alongside the singer Jennifer Lopez.
Sullivan reported from Ohio. O’Keefe reported from Washington. Scott Clement, Anne Gearan and Emily Guskin in Washington contributed to this report.