CLEVELAND — Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump kicked off the homestretch of the presidential race with a burst of Labor Daycampaigning, with both candidates bearing down on Ohio and the Democrats sending top surrogates to drive enthusiasm among core voting blocs like labor and progressives.
With Mrs. Clinton turning from a summer of intense fund-raising back to retail campaigning, she and her team moved on several fronts to confront doubts about her candidacy. She let the press corps onto her campaign plane for the first time this election cycle and met with them briefly to say hello; she gathered with union leaders in Cleveland while her husband appeared at a Labor Day parade in Detroit; and she enlisted the support of her primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, who made his first solo appearance on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf in a bid to draw out his supporters in New Hampshire.
The scramble for votes in Ohio had the candidates practically running into each other: At one point, the motorcades of the Trump and Clinton campaigns crossed paths. And not to be outdone by Mrs. Clinton’s outreach to the news media, Mr. Trump invited reporters onto his personal plane, where he sought to clarify his views on immigration. He said he opposed any path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, but did not explicitly rule out a long-term path to legal status if the nation’s immigration system is overhauled.
“We’re going to make that decision into the future,” Mr. Trump said. But, he added, “to become a citizen, you are going to have to go out and come back in through the process. You’re going to have to go out and get in line. This isn’t touchback. You have to get in line.”
On the plane, Mr. Trump also told reporters that, “as of this moment,” he planned to attend all three debates, saying that only a “natural disaster” could make him change his mind. He added that, while he was preparing, he was not holding any mock debate sessions.
Labor Day has traditionally been the beginning of a two-month sprint to Election Day, in which candidates try to seize voters’ attention as summer fades and debates loom. Monday proved no exception. At one point, all four presidential planes — one each for Mr. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, and Mrs. Clinton and her No. 2, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia — idled on the tarmac at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, highlighting the importance of a state that Republicans believe Mr. Trump must win to have any chance of reaching the White House.
“Labor Day comes, and it’s kind of like a recalibration,” said Beth Myers, who managed Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and served as his senior adviser in 2012. “You see the finish line, you see that there’s not too many game-changing events left, and most campaigns take a measure of where you are on Labor Day.”
This cycle, however, both candidates have eschewed traditional campaigning, albeit in divergent ways. Normally, they would already have been circling each other in swing states as autumn approaches.
But Mrs. Clinton has spent most of the summer away from the campaign trail, focusing on fund-raising and hobnobbing in places like the Hamptons and Beverly Hills with celebrities like Jimmy Buffett and Harvey Weinstein. Mr. Trump has also kept a languid pace, favoring large rallies, often in the evening, over several daily campaign stops.
This year’s Labor Day campaigning reflects another difference. The conventions fell earlier in the summer than usual, leaving five weeks between the end of the Democratic National Convention and the holiday weekend.