By John Whitesides & Amanda Becker
PHILADELPHIA – Democrat Hillary Clinton takes her newly energized campaign to become America’s first woman president on the road on Friday to “Rust Belt” swing states that might decide the fate of the Nov. 8 election.
After presenting an upbeat view of the country in her keynote address to the Democratic convention on Thursday night, the former secretary of state will launch a campaign tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania, two heartland states hit by the decline in U.S. manufacturing.
Clinton is likely to face a tough challenge in such states from Republican nominee Donald Trump, a New York businessman who is trying to win white working-class voters with rhetoric against free trade and illegal immigration.
In the biggest speech of her quarter century in politics, Clinton formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday at the convention in Philadelphia. She cast herself as a steady leader at a “moment of reckoning” for the country, and contrasted her character with what she described as Trump’s dangerous and volatile temperament.
Clinton will speak at a rally in Philadelphia with her vice presidential running mate, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, on Friday before heading out on a bus tour.
Opinion polls show a potentially tight race in November in Ohio and Pennsylvania, both of which were won by President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
Clinton and Trump are essentially tied in Ohio, where the Republicans held their convention last week, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics. Clinton has a lead of 4.4 percentage points in Pennsylvania, the website’s average of recent polls showed.
Ohio and Pennsylvania are among a handful of states that are traditionally viewed as decisive in U.S. presidential elections, since they do not lean heavily either Democratic or Republican.
Nationally, opinion polls show Trump moving into a slight lead after receiving his party’s nomination at the convention in Cleveland. Clinton is likely to get a similar boost after the Democratic convention, where she was lauded by Obama and other senior Democrats as a tough fighter with a long-held passion for helping the underprivileged.
Clinton, a former first lady and U.S. senator, promised in her speech on Thursday to make the United States a country that works for everyone if she is elected.
“We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid,” she said.
Calling her nomination a milestone, the 68-year-old Clinton said, “When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. That’s why when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
Clinton portrayed Trump, 70, as a threat to the country, saying “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Trump sent out a flurry of comments on Twitter on Friday morning, lambasting media coverage of the speech as “a joke,” calling the address “very long and very boring” and accusing Clinton of wanting to shut down “coal mines, steel plants and any other remaining manufacturing.”
Trump will campaign in another swing state, Colorado, on Friday and is scheduled to visit Ohio next week.
Economic issues will be crucial as the White House campaign enters its final three-month stretch. The U.S. economy grew by only 1.2 percent in the second quarter, far less than expected, the Commerce Department said on Friday.
The start of the Democratic convention was overshadowed by the resignation of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who quit over leaked emails showing party officials favored Clinton over her primary rival Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.
Cyber security experts and U.S. officials said on Monday there was evidence that Russia engineered the release of the emails in order to influence the election. Democratic officials suspect that Russia gave the emails to activist group WikiLeaks to try to boost Trump’s chances. The Kremlin has denied the accusations.
Another hack came to light on Thursday, when four people familiar with the matter told Reuters the FBI is investigating a cyber attack against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The DCCC, which raises money for Democrats running for the U.S. House of Representatives, confirmed on Friday that it had been the target of a cyber security incident. The Kremlin said on Thursday that accusations it was trying to influence the U.S. election by launching cyber attacks were “absurd” and later denied involvement in the DCCC hack.