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In Iowa, Hillary Clinton touts boosting jobs, easing child care costs

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during an

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during an Iowa Democratic party early vote rally September 29, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

DES MOINES – Democrat Hillary Clinton landed in Iowa on Thursday on the first day of in-person early voting, trying to combat a polling surge by Republican rival Donald Trump who now leads by an average of five points in the battleground state.

Clinton addressed hundreds of supporters at an outdoor rally here, speaking to their economic concerns by pledging to boost jobs and wages, and improve workforce education.

“We’re going to have real apprenticeships,” Clinton said, in a dig at Trump, the former star of the reality TV show “The Apprentice,” “Not the kind where you’re told ‘you’re fired,’ but the kind where you’re told ‘you’re hired.’”

Clinton said she was eager to take on Trump in the upcoming second presidential debate on Oct. 9, telling the audience: “I have no idea what he’ll say the next time, but you know I will spend some time preparing for it.”

Trump has suggested in recent interviews he might prod Clinton on former President Bill Clinton’s past infidelities at the debate, a prospect Clinton brushed aside when asked about it by reporters on her campaign plane.

“He can run his campaign however he chooses,” Clinton told reporters upon landing in Chicago for a pair of fundraisers. “I’m going to keep talking about the stakes in this election. I’m going to keep talking about my agenda.”

She slammed Trump’s business practices, in response to a Newsweek article published Thursday that found Trump may have violated the U.S. embargo on Cuba in the late 1990s, when executives at his company traveled to the communist island to meet with officials about doing business there, without obtaining the necessary licenses from federal officials.

Clinton said the article’s findings show that Trump “puts his personal and business interests ahead of the laws . . . and the values of the United States.”

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway denied Trump violated any laws, saying on her Twitter account that Trump was “critical” of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

At the campaign rally, the Democratic presidential nominee said she would provide tax breaks and increase federal spending on child care programs to ensure parents do not spend more than 10 percent of their income on child care costs.

Billing herself as a “small business president” if elected, Clinton said she would champion small business growth, while she cast Trump as an unscrupulous businessman who has been sued by small business contractors for failing to pay them for their services.

Across the street from the rally, nearly a dozen Trump supporters, waved campaign signs and flags, bearing the candidate’s name.

Clinton’s appearance in Iowa comes as polls show her trailing Trump. A Quinnipiac University poll last week found Trump ahead 44-37 percent. In August, shortly after the national party conventions, Clinton led Trump by two percentage points.

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said Trump “is running better in Iowa than other Midwestern states . . . Iowa, with a voting bloc that is overwhelmingly white, lacks the kind of large minority population that has fueled Hillary Clinton’s lead in some of the large industrial states.”

On Friday, Clinton will head to Florida for appearances in Port St. Lucie and Coral Springs.

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