Trump and Pence to visit Virginia, a purple state long seen as safe for Clinton
RICHMOND Donald Trump, running mate Mike Pence and key campaign surrogates will swing through Virginia in the elections frantic home stretch, making a play for a purple state long seen as safe for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The Republican nominee will hold a 10 p.m. rally Sunday at a fairgrounds in the Northern Virginia swing territory of Loudoun County. Pence, the governor of Indiana, was scheduled to appear at a rally at George Mason University Saturday at 8 p.m.
Two of Trumps children Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump will come to Northern Virginia on Sunday and Monday, respectively.
Trumps decision to appear in a populous, purple Washington exurb cuts against his broader strategy of running up the vote in heavily red, rural areas. Much of his last-minute appeals have been in tiny burgs like Selma, N.C., population 6,000.
His foray into Northern Virginia appears to be a bid to hold down Clintons margins in a region that, excluding the exurbs, leans heavily Democratic.
[Rural strategy takes Trump to very red places in final days]
Were going right into the lions den, said John Fredericks, a conservative radio host and chairman of Trumps Virginia campaign. Were taking it right to their base. Were going to have a much better showing in Northern Virginia than anybody dreamed of. We are going to win Virginia.
Trumps planned visit comes as some Virginia Republicans were expressing newfound optimism about his chances here based on tightening polls. Clintons decision last week to resume TV ads in the state and dispatch running mate Sen.Tim Kaine to his home state for two election eve rallies also raised hopes that Virginia was back in play.
At a moment in the campaign when time is even more precious than money, Trumps 11th-hour visit signals some confidence that he can win the state. In addition to Trump, Pence and the Trumps children, the campaign will dispatch Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to hit suburban Richmond and rural Farmville and Lynchburg on Monday.
Virginia is a state that is notorious for breaking late. 2016 is no exception, Mike Rubino, Trumps Virginia senior adviser, said in a text message. Mr. Trumps America First policy agenda is tailor made for this state and we are investing heavily in Virginia over the final days to ensure his message reaches every voter.
[Republicans dare to hope: Did Virginia get her swing back?]
A Washington Post compilation of battleground-state polls finds Clinton winning Virginia 45 percent to Trumps 41 percent. Poll averages calculated by The Post reflect recent surveys that also include Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and independent candidate Evan McMullin in states where they are on the ballot and where results are available.
Some neutral analysts and more than a few Republicans remained skeptical of Trumps chances. Clinton does not need to win Virginias 13 electoral votes to pull off a victory, but Trump has a much narrower path to the White House without them.
Its hard to judge Trumps strategy by his travel schedule when he has done events in Baltimore and Washington state, said Nathan L. Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Theres a difference between declaring that a state is in play and it being a toss-up or even within reach. Trumps team apparently believes they have a chance in Virginia, but theres probably an easier to path to 270 [electoral votes] for him without winning the commonwealth.
Brian Zuzenak, director of Clintons Virginia campaign, said Democrats are working hard in the state and remain confident that the former secretary of state will prevail.
[Trump confounds many Republicans with last-minute push in Virginia]
We are proud of the organization we have built, and throughout this campaign we have seen Hillarys message and vision resonate with voters across the Commonwealth, he said in an email.
Virginia was always expected to be a battleground, but Clinton had enjoyed a comfortable lead here for so long that both sides pulled their TV ads in the summer.
Trump returned with a $2 million television ad buy two weeks ago and appeared at a Virginia Beach rally on Oct. 22. But even some Republicans dismissed those moves as a wasteful attempt to dispel rumors that he was pulling out of the state entirely.
Yet Republicans saw more reason to hope last week given tighter polls and Clintons six-figure ad buy. Kaine announced election eve rallies in Northern Virginia and Richmond perhaps signaling a surprising need to shore up support in a state where he presided as a popular governor and which he represents in the U.S. Senate.
At least so far, the Clinton campaign has not disclosed any plans to bring the candidate back to Virginia. She has not appeared at an event here since July.
I dont think Democrats are taking anything for granted, but there are bigger concerns than Virginia on the electoral map, such as Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and maybe even Michigan and Wisconsin, Gonzales said. If there is any space between up for grabs and in the bag, thats where Virginia would fall.