WASHINGTON – After seeing reports last week that his campaign was pulling out of Virginia, Donald Trump picked up the phone and called his Virginia state director Mike Rubino to deliver a very clear message: he will not withdraw, and will give Rubino whatever resources needed to win the Old Dominion.
To back that up, CNN is told the Trump campaign plans to go on the air with television ads in Virginia starting Tuesday in what campaign officials say is a $2 million buy in “key markets” through election day.
Sources familiar with that conversation tell CNN that Trump was not happy with what they say was a botched message from Trump campaign headquarters in New York to field staff in Virginia. The message was supposed to be that Team Trump wanted to send a handful of his staff in Virginia to North Carolina to help with early voting.
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Trump sources say the campaign alone has almost 30 paid staffers in Virginia, who are working to get out the vote in the southwestern and southeastern parts of the state. That doesn’t include joint operations with the Republican National Committee.
These Trump sources say they understand that the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia, which is growing in population and helping turn the state more blue, is not Trump country, but insist that Trump does have support elsewhere. They concede, however, that a lot of that support is in rural areas that requires resources for aggressive get out the vote operations.
All this flies in the face of what many national Republican party officials see as a lost cause in Virginia, especially since its popular Senator, Tim Kaine, is Hillary Clinton’s running mate. A Virginia poll released Monday by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center found Clinton with a 15-point lead over Trump in the state.
Still, sources say a driving force for Trump to compete in Virginia is his multiple properties there, including a hotel that opened last year on his winery near Charlottesville. Trump sources say the candidate is especially focused on winning battleground states where he is invested through his business.
Additionally, Virginia Republicans pushing for Trump to stay in the hunt there are telling campaign officials that the Old Dominion tends to break late and that they still have a chance. They are also reminding Team Trump about recent statewide races, such as Ed Gillespie’s Senate run against Mark Warner, where he came close. They say he could have won had the party taken the race more seriously and devoted more resources.
The biggest asset for any campaign, however, is a candidate’s time. And three weeks before Election Day, Trump is going to Wisconsin — which most bewildered Republican officials, even some in the state, say he has no chance of winning.
Trump sources insist he will be going to Virginia multiple times before Election Day, but they admit nothing is on the schedule yet.