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Back in Pa., Trump predicts victory

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. - As criticism continued over his slams against the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, Donald Trump returned to Pennsylvania on Monday night, calling Hillary Clinton "the devil" and predicting he will be the first Republican presidential nominee in a generation to win the state.

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. - As criticism continued over his slams against the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, Donald Trump returned to Pennsylvania on Monday night, calling Hillary Clinton "the devil" and predicting he will be the first Republican presidential nominee in a generation to win the state.

"My guys are so sure of it," he said, drawing cheers from the crowd in the Cumberland Valley High School gymnasium. "It's going to happen."

Trump avoided addressing the public spat with the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, whose address last week at the Democratic convention sparked an ongoing war of words.

Instead, he turned to familiar themes, faulting U.S. trade deals, the news media, and opposition to water-boarding terror suspects, a policy change he said disadvantages the United States in its fight against terrorists.

"They can chop off heads, they can drown people, they can bury you in sand, and we can't waterboard," he said. "Very hard when you're not playing on a level playing field."

Trump also unleashed a new attack on Clinton, saying that in supporting her, Sen. Bernie Sanders "made a deal with the devil - she's the devil."

Before the rally, the Clinton campaign launched its own attack on the GOP nominee's qualifications, arranging for reporters to speak with three prominent veterans from Pennsylvania.

Chris Carney, a former Democratic congressman from Susquehanna County and former commander in the Naval Reserve, said Trump had denigrated service members and their families in an ill-conceived effort to make himself look like a leader and commander. He is neither, Carney said.

"It is clear that Trump has neither the temperament nor the experience to be the commander-in-chief, to lead the forces of the United States, especially when we have such complex issues bedeviling the country and the world," Carney said.

The rally, in a community about 10 miles southwest of Harrisburg, marked Trump's second stop in Pennsylvania in a week. It came on the heels of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and a cross-state bus tour by Clinton.

Most political analysts agree that the state is shaping up to be a crucial battleground. A poll last week from Suffolk University showed Clinton leading Trump by 50 percent to 41 percent in the state among likely voters in a two-way race. A Public Policy Polling survey released Monday put her lead at three percentage points.

And while Clinton accepted her nomination in the state's reliably Democratic southeast corner, Trump's visits - here and to Scranton last Wednesday - were in pockets of Pennsylvania where Republicans and conservatives have greater appeal.

The crowd in Mechanicsburg reflected the divide.

A few sign-wielding protesters gathered at the end of the high school parking lot, past the winding line of people waiting to enter the rally.

Natalie Seitz, a parent of two Cumberland Valley graduates, said the school's decision to host Trump undermined its emphasis on student conduct and against bullying. "To me it's the moral equivalent of having a wet bikini contest on our stage when the dress code says you have to wear this," she said.

But thousands turned out to cheer the candidate. (Trump claimed 5,000 were turned away.) Inside, the gym was packed with supporters wearing his trademark red cap.

Vance Kitner, a 39-year-old factory worker from Carlisle, said he came to support Trump - and to "stop Hillary from bringing more Muslims in."

"They don't assimilate to our culture," he said. "So we've got to stop that."

Denny Hufnagle, a 65-year-old postal worker from Boiling Springs, said he's a registered Democrat but Trump will get his vote - because he "is not afraid to buck the system and do what the people want rather than what the government wants."

klangley@postgazette.com    717-884-2141@karen_langley

Tracie Mauriello of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contributed to this article.

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