- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 22, 2016

Donald Trump over the weekend delivered a closing argument against Hillary Clinton and the “totally rigged system” he says enables her — but the businessman’s presidential campaign expressed open frustration Sunday that a policy-centric message once again has been drowned out.

Trailing badly in virtually all polls, Mr. Trump outlined plans for his first 100 days in office during a speech in Gettysburg on Saturday. In his attempt to put the focus on issues during the home stretch of the campaign, the Republican nominee offered himself as a “once in a lifetime” agent of change to revive the economy and stamp out Washington corruption, and he drew a stark contrast between his plan and the more-of-the-same government that he said Mrs. Clinton would run to benefit herself and her cronies.

But much of Mr. Trump’s pitch was lost as headlines instead focused on his vow to sue the 11 women that have come forward in recent weeks to accuse him of sexual assault. The Republican certainly contributed to such media coverage by calling the women liars and charging that the news media presented their claims “with virtually no fact-checking whatsoever.”

“All of these liars will be sued when the election is over,” the New York billionaire said in Gettysburg.

Mr. Trump said the smears used against him underscore the corrupt power wielded by the political establishment, which he said poses an even greater threat to working Americans.

“If they can fight somebody like me with unlimited resources to fight back, just look at what they can do to you — your jobs, your security, your education, your health care, the violation of religious liberty, the theft of your Second Amendment, the loss of your factories, your homes and much more,” Mr. Trump said.

As was the case during his final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, debates about issues took a backseat over the weekend. At the debate, his back-and-forth with Mrs. Clinton over gun rights, abortion, and the economy was overshadowed by his refusal to say he’ll accept the results of the Nov. 8 election.

In the case of his Saturday speech, headlines were dominated by his lawsuit threat, not his detailed policy prescriptions.

Trump campaign officials also have struggled to fend off a growing narrative that says the race is all but over. Polls have shown Mrs. Clinton with a significant lead. Surveys also have shown the former first lady ahead in many battleground states, though polls show tight races in Florida, Ohio and other key states.

The most recent Real Clear Politics average of all polls gives Mrs. Clinton a 6-point edge; other recent polls have given her a double-digit lead.

Mrs. Clinton herself clearly believes the race has been won. Over the weekend, she turned much of her fire on Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and other Republicans locked in close re-election battles, hoping to deliver a Democratic landslide that would give the party control of both houses of Congress.

She made clear she’ll spend little time engaging with Mr. Trump directly and instead will focus on congressional races.

“He can say whatever he wants to. He can run his campaign however he wants to,” she told reporters after a campaign event in Pennsylvania. “We’re going to be emphasizing the importance of electing Democrats.”

The Trump campaign insists the polls are wrong and that the race will turn around.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the close relationship between some media outlets and the Clinton campaign has resulted in a host of stories claiming the White House contest is finished even though the election is still more than two weeks away.

“We feel very frustrated. It’s not all members of the media. It’s not even most members of the media, but look at the stories being written now,” she said. “The path to 270 [electoral votes] is narrow, the path to 270 is over. That is so unfair to the voters who are yet to go to the ballot box and exercise their constitutional rights to tell us who should be president of the United States and commander in chief.”

The Clinton campaign is actively pushing its supporters to get the polls over the next several weeks during early voting periods and has downplayed the notion that it has the election in the bag.

“We’ve got to stay focused, and what’s important to us is we don’t want anybody to wake up after election day … and they didn’t have a chance to participate,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN on Sunday.

As for his own pitch, Mr. Trump is painting himself as the only candidate in the race capable of delivering change. He called his opponent the very embodiment of a political establishment that he says is rigged against working-class Americans.

“I’m asking the American people to rise above the noise and clutter of our broken politics and to embrace that great faith and optimism that has always been the central ingredient in the American character, and there is nothing better or stronger than the American character,” he said. “Hillary Clinton is not running against me. She is running against change and she is running against all the American people and all the American voters.

He also presented a 100-day “action plan,” which he described as his contract with the American people. It began with an ambitious agenda for his first day in office:

⦁ Submit a Constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress.

⦁ Institute a hiring freeze on federal employees to begin thinning the federal workforce through attrition, with exemptions for defense, public health and public safety jobs.

⦁ Require that every new federal regulation be accompanied by the elimination of two existing regulations.

⦁ Impose a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyist.

⦁ Impose a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.

⦁ Institute a “complete ban on foreign lobbyists” raising money for American political campaigns.

Most of the agenda echoed themes from throughout Mr. Trump’s campaign, although he added urgency with the timeline for enacting his plans.

Mr. Trump also confronted climate change vowing to end billions of dollars in payments to the United Nations climate change program and use the money instead to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.

“We’re going to fix our own environment,” he said.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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