As Trump stumbles, Clinton weighs a striking choice: Expand the map or stick to the plan

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton faces a striking choice in the final three weeks of the campaign: to expand her efforts to states that Democrats haven’t won in a generation, or to stay a current course that, if conditions hold, would deliver her a resounding electoral college victory.

After two tumultuous weeks focused on Donald Trump‘s behavior toward women, Clinton is ahead in nearly all of the key battleground states where her campaign has directed the most resources, according to many recent polls. But some once-solidly Republican states – notably Arizona, Georgia and Utah – now also appear to be in play.

Clinton aides said they see advantages to running up the score in the electoral college, where 270 votes wins the White House. Victories in unexpected places could boost that total, handing her more of a mandate come January and decreasing the potency of Trump’s complaints of a “rigged” election.

But victories in core battleground states such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire would almost assuredly cut off Trump’s path as well. Those states are also home to key down-ballot races that will determine control of the Senate, an important factor in how much support Clinton would have while launching an agenda in January.

“It’s true more and more states are emerging as truly competitive,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said.”We are closely following the situations in those states even as we refuse to take anything for granted in the core battlegrounds, which also happen to be the sites of some of the biggest Senate races.”

Trump’s failure to perform in such states, Clinton aides said, will allow her campaign to shift attention even more to North Carolina and Florida – two must-win states for Trump – to choke his path to 270 electoral votes.

Clinton is running television ads tailored to seven states: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio and Iowa. Because they cost millions of dollars to sustain, such ad purchases are the clearest clue about which states are a campaign’s top priority.

The vast majority of Clinton’s campaign appearances and those of her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, have been concentrated in those states, and most of the high-profile surrogates dispatched by the campaign have focused their efforts there as well.

Trump’s campaign now appears intent on remaining competitive in four battleground states: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He has maintained a far busier travel scheduled than Clinton, hitting all four of those states last week, as well as New Hampshire and Maine. Trump appeared in Florida on three consecutive days last week, underscoring how crucial the state is to his strategy.

Trump will spend the early part of this week in Wisconsin and Colorado before heading to Nevada for Wednesday’s debate. His campaign operations in key battlegrounds continue to suffer from ongoing tensions with both state and national GOP establishments and a dearth of on-the-ground investments.

Last week, the campaign fired Trump’s state co-chairman in Virginia, Corey Stewart, after he took part in a protest against the Republican National Committee.

In Ohio, where Trump has fallen behind in the polls, the campaign severed ties with , Matt Borges, the chairman of the state Republican Party. In a scathing letter, Trump’s Ohio state director, Robert Paduchik, accused Borges of going on a “self-promotional media tour with state and national outlets to criticize our party’s nominee.”

While the Clinton campaign has begun exploring new opportunities, it has also redoubled its efforts in some of its strongest states. The campaign increased investments recently in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada, according to a Democrat who was familiar with the strategy but was not authorized to speak publicly.

The planned visits to Arizona this week by Sanders and Chelsea Clinton, meanwhile, mark what some Democrats see as a longer-term shift in the state’s electoral politics.

Only one Democrat – Bill Clinton – has carried Arizona since 1948. Bill Clinton lost the state in 1992 but narrowly prevailed in 1996.

Alexis Tameron, the state’s Democratic party chairwoman, said the demographics of the state are trending in the right direction for Democrats, and the state’s voting patterns could resemble Colorado within a few cycles.

Even as it weighs whether to invest heavily in new states, the Clinton campaign is increasingly reaching out to voters in those places through local media, an effort to maintain a presence without reallocating resources to the state.

Kaine spoke to a Salt Lake City television station remotely from New York on Thursday, relaying that the Clinton campaign wants to step up its focus on the state, which Democrats have not won since 1964.

“Hopefully, we’ll even have candidates or spouses or high-profile surrogates visit,” Kaine told television station KTVX. “We’re three and a half weeks out in a state that we didn’t think was in play. Now it is.”

In Georgia, where the last Democrat to carry the state was Bill Clinton in 1992, there’s a clear sense that the contest is more meaningful than in recent cycles, said Michael Smith, communications director for the Georgia Democratic Party.

“Instead of using Georgia to mobilize people to go to North Carolina, they’re staying in our state. It’s night and day,” Smith said.

Democrats are running coordinated campaigns in the battleground states, meaning money is being to spent to promote the entire ticket, not just Clinton.

That stands to benefit Democratic Senate candidates, including Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Deborah Ross in North Carolina, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada – all of whom are in competitive races.

The pro-Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA Action, is considering devoting television air time to Senate races in four states: Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to a person familiar with the discussions. A decision is expected to be made by the middle of the week.

In an effort to help down-ballot candidates across the country, Clinton and her surrogates, especially President Barack Obama, have recently stepped up their case against Republicans in general, seeking to steer voters away from giving congressional candidates a pass for “enabling” Trump.

“I mean, I know some of them now are walking away, but why did it take you this long?” Obama said at a campaign stop for Clinton in Cleveland on Friday.

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