Donald Trump says he wants to end the Obama citizenship controversy so he can return to “making America great again," but accusations about “bigotry” and other personal attacks at his and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in recent days appear to be taking precedence over policy with Election Day in just seven weeks.
“When African-Americans came here in 1619 … they could not be citizens,” Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine told “Fox News Sunday.” “So for five years when Donald Trump has pushed this bigoted lie that the African American president of the United States is not a U.S. citizen, so many people connect that to the most painful time in American history.”
To be sure, Trump, the Republican presidential nominee and first-time candidate, was for years at the forefront of the so-called “birther movement,” which argued Obama was born in Kenya, therefore not a U.S. citizen.
The debate faded in 2011 when Obama made public a birth certificate document from Hawaii. However, the issue resurfaced last week when Trump stalled for days about whether Obama was indeed a citizen, saying Friday that Obama indeed was but blaming associates of the Clinton campaign for starting the so-called “birther” issue.
On Sunday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway seemed to prolong the issue, or at least part of it, when she continued to argue the issue started with people connected to the Clinton campaign, in its hard-fought 2008 Democratic presidential primary with Obama.
“It was used as a smear against Senator Obama by Clinton campaign associates, and by the way, not a bunch of summer interns who just got it all wrong and were a little bit too ambitious,” Conway told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “These were chief strategists, pollsters, long-term confidants who were pushing this.”
The race between Trump and Clinton, the Democrat nominee, has tightened in recent weeks, after a series of Trump missteps in August resulted in a drop in polls numbers that some political analysts suggested were insurmountable.
Trump during that time was critical of a Muslim woman whose son, an Army captain, was killed in Iraq. The woman, Ghazala Khan, stood silently on the Democratic National Convention stage while her husband attacked Trump.
But most polls now show Trump having closed Clinton’s single-digit lead.
A Fox News poll released Thursday shows him trailing Clinton by just 1 percentage point among likely voters in a four-way ballot. Clinton receives 41 percent and Trump 40 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 8 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 3 percent.
In the head-to-head matchup with Clinton, Trump leads up by 1 percentage point.
Clinton, a former first lady and New York senator, has struggled from nearly the start of her 2016 White House bid to gain voters’ trust, in large part over revelations she used a private server system as secretary of state to send and receive official emails.
And an FBI investigation into the matter found at least parts of several of the emails contained classified information.
Her campaign has also be dragged down by emails that suggest staffers at her family’s Clinton Foundation were seeking favors at the Clinton-run State Department for high-dollar donors and Clinton saying in recent days that half of Trump supporters are “deplorables.”
A poll released in July by the nonpartisan Gallup firm found “Trump and Clinton are currently among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades.”
The poll found Trump’s “highly unfavorable” score was 42 percent, compared to 33 for Clinton. It also noted that 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater previously had the highest negative score -- 26 percent.
“We have a candidate who clearly represents the unpopular policies and unpopular themes of the last eight years as well as the old policies from the 1990s,” public affair consultant Tony Reiss told FoxNews.com on Sunday. “On the other side, we have Donald Trump, a candidate who is tapping into the frustration that most Americans feel toward politicians right now. … As Trump continues to roll out his agenda and rise in the polls … we’ll see further negativity come from the Clinton campaign and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Trump responds in-kind.”
Conway also said Sunday that Trump is “moving on to all the things he talked about (last) week” including tax reform and child care tax credits.
“Donald Trump has talked about every policy issue that there is,” she continued. “We have a few more to go.”
Trump indeed gave a significant policy speech last week on improving child care in the United States, in large part through rewriting the tax code, including allowing parents to deduct such expenses. He also proposed six weeks of paid maternity leave to companies and employers that don’t offer maternity leave. Clinton laid out her plan earlier in the campaign.
“We’re in the final weeks of a campaign and both candidates will do whatever they think is going to move the needle in their favor,” Reiss said. “Personal attacks, policy attacks or harsh contrasting, at this stage in the campaign nothing is off the table.”