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Clinton: We know ‘the difference between leadership and dictatorship’

CLEVELAND  — Hillary Clinton launched what is expected to be a whirlwind, final stretch of her 2016 campaign on Friday, with her first stop in the battleground state of Ohio.

Two days after she faced off on the debate stage against Donald Trump for the last time, Clinton reminded voters of her opponent’s comments about the results of the election that have drawn widespread scorn.

“On Wednesday night, Donald Trump did something no other presidential nominee has ever done. He refused to say he would respect the results of this election,” Clinton said at a campaign rally in Cleveland. “Now, make no mistake, by doing that he is threatening our democracy.”

For dramatic emphasis, Clinton added: “We know in our country, the difference between leadership and dictatorship.”

Trump has baffled even fellow Republicans with his continued insistence that the election is “rigged” — rhetoric that calls into question a cornerstone of American democracy. But rather than rescind those remarks on the debate stage in Las Vegas Wednesday night, Trump only doubled down.

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said when asked whether he will concede if he loses on November 8. “I will keep you in suspense.”

The Republican nominee continued that rhetoric on Friday, saying at a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania: “Wait until you see the results on November 8. People are going to say, ‘Wow, that’s really surprising.’ Because the whole deal is rigged.”

Clinton enters the final 18 days of the presidential election with her path to victory widening. The Democratic nominee is leading in national polls and key battleground states, and her campaign is now focused on turning traditionally red states like Arizona blue in November.

Her campaign event in Cleveland on Friday marks the beginning of a ramped up campaign schedule. Clinton will be on the trail through the weekend, campaigning in Pennsylvania with her running mate, Tim Kaine, on Saturday, before heading to North Carolina on Sunday and New Hampshire on Monday.

Clinton’s top aides are particularly eying an opening in Ohio. The state has been one of Trump’s bright spots, but Clinton on Friday expressed confidence that she could take the key battleground state out of her opponent’s column.

To do that, Clinton explicitly reached out to voters “reconsidering their support for my opponent.”

“I know you may still have questions for me. I respect that, I want to answer them, I want to earn your vote, I am reaching out to all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents,” Clinton said. “I hope that as we move through these next 18 days, everyone thinks seriously about what you really want to see, not just in your next president, but in your lives, in your jobs, in you education, in our future together.”

And in a clear reference to Trump’s repeated jab that she lacks the physical energy to be president, Clinton joked that the three debates of the general election had proven otherwise.

“Well, that was the third and last time that I will ever have to debate Donald Trump,” Clinton said. “I have now spent four and a half hours on stage with Donald, proving once again I have the stamina to be president.”