DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — With early voting poised to play a bigger role in this year’s election, Hillary Clinton was urging voters in Iowa to start casting ballots on Thursday, more than five weeks before Election Day.

Clinton’s 10-city tour of Iowa brought the Democratic presidential nominee back to a state where she eked out a win in the caucuses over Bernie Sanders. With her focus now on defeating Donald Trump, Clinton was hoping that an emphasis on early voting could help her replicate President Barack Obama’s successful strategy in the battleground state four years ago. For Clinton, the early voting strategy is key to any prospects she may have for pulling off victories in states like Arizona and Georgia, which traditionally vote Republican in presidential races.

Other states have already begun in-person early voting, but Iowa is getting attention because it’s the first battleground state to do so.

In Des Moines on Thursday, Clinton sought to offer a hopeful message about the future that would contrast with the doom-and-gloom themes that Trump has made staples of his campaign. Laying out ideas for addressing childcare challenges faced by middle-class families, Clinton recounted for supporters at a rally her own background of working on children’s issues and her father’s struggles as a small businessman.

“I know so much of this campaign has been about, you know, whatever my opponent said and who he attacked and who he denigrates — and the list is long,” Clinton said. “But it’s not about that, it’s about you. It’s about your families and your future, and each of us should be telling you what we intend to do in the job.”

The Republican nominee was holding a rally in New Hampshire, a day after Clinton campaigned there with Sanders in an appeal to young voters. While Clinton sought to broaden her appeal to voters still on the fence, Trump was sticking with his strategy of focusing on the loyal base of working-class voters whose enthusiasm has driven his campaign.

Trump has brushed off harsh critiques of his performance in the first presidential debate that have come from supporters and opponents alike. But in a nod to the concerns expressed by some Trump allies that he was insufficiently prepared, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee released a “TRUMP Debate Preparation Survey” ahead of his second showdown with Clinton.

The survey, a gimmick intended to engage supporters online, asks whether Trump should use the second debate to criticize Clinton for her policies on terrorism, economics and trade — questions sure to elicit an enthusiastic “yes” from Trump backers. Absent was any inquiry about whether Trump should bring up former President Bill Clinton’s infidelities, as he’s repeatedly threatened to do.

In another reminder of how far this year’s presidential campaign has veered into baffling territory, third-party candidate Gary Johnson was being ridiculed after he was unable, in a television appearance, to name a single world leader he admired. The awkward moment drew immediate comparisons — including by Johnson himself — to his “Aleppo moment” from earlier in the month when he didn’t recognize the besieged city in Syria.

“I’m having a brain freeze,” Johnson said Wednesday.

Clinton’s campaign seized on a new report alleging Trump had explored business opportunities in Cuba in the late 1990s, apparently in violation of the U.S. embargo on the communist island. Though Clinton strongly supports President Barack Obama’s efforts to ease the embargo and restore U.S. ties to Cuba, she accused her opponent of acting against U.S. interests by defying the sanctions in the past.

The work was done by a consulting firm called Seven Arrows on behalf Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., Trump’s publicly traded casino company, Newsweek reported. The magazine said Trump reimbursed the consulting firm for $68,000 of business expenses for its Cuba work — even though neither Trump nor the firm had sought a federal government waiver that would have allowed them to pursue such activities.

Clinton’s focus on early voting reflected the premium that Democrats are placing this year on trying to get their voters to turn out — if possible, long before Nov. 8. Though the political map favors Clinton this year, Democrats are concerned that a lack of enthusiasm will keep their voters from showing up in the same numbers that led to Obama’s victories in the last two elections.

More than 4 in 10 Iowa voters cast early ballots in 2012, and Clinton’s campaign is hoping that even higher interest in early voting this year will give her a decisive edge.
Lederman reported from Washington.

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