Hillary Clinton has accused Donald Trump of insulting America's veterans and pressing dangerous military plans around the globe, seeking to undercut his appeal to service families in Southern voting battlegrounds.
Clinton, addressing supporters in Florida, warned Trump would lead the US back to war in the Middle East. And to military vets and their families, she pointed anew to his summertime dust-up with the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier.
"His whole campaign has been one long insult to all those who have worn the uniform,'' the Democratic nominee said at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Republican Trump, trying emphasise his military support, released a letter from 88 retired generals and admirals citing an urgent need for a "course correction'' in America's national security policy. It was aimed at rebutting Clinton's arguments that she would be best positioned to lead the military and reassuring Republicans who have openly worried that his provocative statements might undermine US alliances.
"We believe that such a change can only be made by someone who has not been deeply involved with, and substantially responsible for, the hollowing out of our military and the burgeoning threats facing our country around the world,'' the military leaders wrote. 'For this reason, we support Donald Trump's candidacy to be our next commander in chief.''
Clinton pushed back, saying Trump has lagged in securing key military supporters compared to past Republican nominees including John McCain and Mitt Romney. She pointed to her endorsements from retired Marine general John Allen, who blasted Trump at the Democratic National Committee, and former CIA deputy director Mike Morell.
"They know they can count on me to be the kind of commander in chief who will protect our country and our troops, and they know they cannot count on Donald Trump,'' Clinton said en route to Florida. "They view him as a danger and a risk.''
Campaigning in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Trump vowed to take aggressive action to help veterans at home and confront threats abroad including acts of terrorism from the Islamic State group. He was questioned by retired general Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency who is a strong supporter.
"We are going to solve the ISIS problem,'' Trump said. "But we have to get back to building our country, because our country is going to hell.''
Trump also promised to fix problems at the Veterans Administration, which has grappled with patient care mismanagement during the Obama administration.