Trump in Washington: Is this a campaign or hotel promotion?

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s campaign is defending his eyebrow-raising decision to spend precious campaign time promoting his business in the final days of the long presidential campaign as his poll numbers sink.

With less than two weeks left before Election Day, the Republican candidate is taking a break from full campaigning Wednesday to formally open his new hotel in Washington. Meanwhile, he is dispatching his running mate, Mike Pence, to play political defense in Utah — which hasn’t backed a Democrat for president in 52 years.

Trump’s hotel stop follows a visit Tuesday to another of Trump’s properties, the Doral golf course outside Miami. The odd travel schedule less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election illustrates a Republican ticket pulled in two directions while Democrat Hillary Clinton surges.

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Trump’s campaign manager defended the stops, arguing that Clinton took time off to prepare for the debates and that stops at Trump’s hotels highlight his business experience. “Hillary Clinton took five days off to prepare for one debate and everyone looked at that as some kind of noble exercise,” Kellyanne Conway said, on NBC’s “Today” show. “He’s got the most active campaign sked of the two candidates by far.”

Still, Trump’s hotel visits dominated the campaign news Wednesday at a time when Republicans see reports of rising Obamacare premiums and the hacked email of a Clinton campaign staffer as far more potent political arguments.

Clinton, meanwhile, has turned some of her focus to the post-election period, describing the difficulty of unifying the country after a divisive race. Deep in transition planning, people familiar with her effort say Clinton plans to impose strict ethics rules on how lobbyists may participate in her effort.

“What Trump has done is to make it possible for people who had racist, sexist, and all kinds of prejudices and bigotry to put them right out there,” Clinton said on the “Breakfast Club,” a syndicated radio show based in New York City. “I’m not going to be able to wave a magic wand and change everybody’s thoughts.”

Later Wednesday, Clinton is holding two events in Florida, both aimed at encouraging voters in the state to cast early ballots. It’s the candidate’s 69th birthday, a milestone she celebrated a day early on Univision’s entertainment news show “El Gordo y La Flaca,” where she was feted with a bottle of tequila and a large cake featuring her face and the White House.