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Trump, Clinton Make Pitches To Working Class Voters On Labor Day

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Labor Day is the traditional launch of the final campaign sprint towards Election Day. And even in this most unconventional campaign, both candidates are in traditional Labor Day mode. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton crossed paths in Ohio, as did our own Scott Detrow and Tamara Keith. They're covering those campaigns. Hey there, Scott. Hey, Tamara.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.

CORNISH: So, Scott, I want to start with you. What has Donald Trump's day been like?

DETROW: Well, it actually looked like the kind of day you would see on Hillary Clinton's schedule - meetings with small groups of voters, really tightly-controlled settings. He was doing some one-on-one campaigning in diners - at the fair. Trump is typically focused on all these big rallies, and he'll be doing those tomorrow. But a day like this could be the latest sign that the last two months of the campaign for Donald Trump will be pretty traditional and pretty focused for a candidate who's been anything but all year. You know, he's brought in new management and more and more he's acting more and more like a typical candidate for president, which has not been the M.O. for Donald Trump this year.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has been relatively quiet these last few weeks. But, Tamara Keith, she's been doing public events, right? What was she up to today?

KEITH: She's doing a couple of Labor Day picnics, which is very traditional. Organized labor and Democrats are like peanut butter and jelly, especially on Labor Day. And in particular, this is important for Clinton because there's been some concern that white working class - especially white working class men - might peel off. You know, back in March I was here in Cleveland talking to labor union members who were saying that they were tempted to vote for Trump. So Clinton is definitely - she is on the campaign trail today and for the rest of the week. Last week she was fundraising, and she was also doing debate prep because the first debate is about 20 days away.

CORNISH: Tamara, how unusual is it for these candidates to be in Ohio at the same time?

KEITH: Well, Ohio is the center of the political universe. It is the swing state of all swing states. So it's not entirely surprising that they would be here at the same time, though I was at the Cleveland airport waiting for Clinton's plane to come in and we were literally parked right next to a Trump plane and a Trump-Pence plane. So there was something of a traffic jam on the tarmac with all of these candidates right here in Cleveland.

DETROW: And then actually later in the day, Audie, I was on a bus with other reporters covering Donald Trump, and we had to pull over so the Clinton motorcade could zip by us. So that shows you just how important Ohio is for this race.

CORNISH: You know, Scott, Tamara also mentioned debate prep. And obviously the candidates are set to face off with each other in the first debate later this month. Did Trump talk about what he's doing to prepare?

DETROW: He did. He took some questions from the press and said that he's preparing kind of the same way that he did for all of those primary debates that you saw earlier this year. There were about a dozen of those on cable news. They were pretty raucous affairs at times. You know, Trump talked about his anatomy at one point. That was certainly a first in presidential politics. And these fall debates are going to be much, much different. They're much more serious. Of course, there's only two candidates. But there have been a lot of questions about whether Trump would actually show up later this month for the first debate. He had been complaining a lot about them, about the schedule, saying that two of the debates go head-to-head with NFL games. And the fact that he skipped a debate on the eve of the Iowa caucuses made a lot of people think, well, maybe Trump won't show, or maybe he'll make a big thing of possibly not showing to kind of raise the drama. But Trump did say when asked today, do you plan on debating? He said, yes. He thinks they're very important. He looks forward to being there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I think it's an important element of what we're doing. I think we have an obligation to do the debates. I did them with the other - you know, in the other cases. We had, I guess, 11 debates. No, I look forward to the debates.

DETROW: And Audie, he's trailing in nearly every swing state at this point. He's trailing in the national polls. Those debates are a moment where millions and millions of people are tuning into the race and it could be his last big moment to really claw his way back into this.

CORNISH: And Tamara, before I let you go, did we hear from Hillary Clinton's campaign on this? I know that they briefly spoke to the press as they unveiled that new plane.

KEITH: Yes, so they unveiled a new plane that the press is actually flying on with her. A representative from the campaign tells me that she has been preparing extensively, but that they aren't talking about how she's preparing. And she does have a sparring partner, but they won't say who it is.

CORNISH: That's Tamara Keith and Scott Detrow, traveling with the Clinton and Trump campaigns today in Ohio. Thanks so much to you both.

DETROW: Any time.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.