Donald Trump returns to Virginia on Saturday, campaigning in a commonwealth that appears to be moving decisively toward his opponent in the race’s final weeks.
Real Clear Politics’ average of recent polls in Virginia shows Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton leading by about eight percentage points – a comfortable lead in this previously purple state.
Mike Rubino, the Trump campaign’s senior advisor in Virginia, said Friday that Virginia statewide races tend to close late – pointing to the gubernatorial campaign of Ken Cuccinelli, and Ed Gillespie’s recent senate run – both of which ended up with much smaller margins for the victor than polls indicated in the race’s final weeks.
Cuccinelli and Gillespie both lost their contests.
Rubino said Trump will target the military vote in the safely Republican Virginia Beach area on Saturday. His speech will also likely contain elements of his “closing argument” – to be unveiled at an earlier event in Gettysburg, PA.
Some Republicans have questioned the wisdom of having Trump return to Virginia at all at this stage in the race, arguing that the Commonwealth and its 13 electoral votes are essentially off the board at this stage.
“He probably doesn’t want to give up here, but I don’t know what sound political advisor would tell him that two weeks out in a state you’re down by ten you should be spending any time or really any money,” said Will Ritter, co-founder of Poolhouse, a Republican ad agency in Richmond.
“While he can get some free media and come down here and kind of rally the base, talking to three thousand people in an arena is great, we’re talking about millions of people here, and he needs to be able to expand past the rallies,” Ritter said.
Meanwhile, Trump’s return to Virginia is likely to create new headaches for Rep. Barbara Comstock, now locked in a tough reelection race in Northern Virginia’s 10th district. Comstock has distanced herself from Trump after his recent controversial comments, but the campaign of her opponent, businesswoman LuAnn Bennett continues to yoke the two together on the stump, and in television ads.
The Virginia Democratic Party chairwoman Susan Swecker explained the math keeping the race close in a district that hasn’t had a Democratic representative since the Carter administration.
“Over two thirds of the voters in that district find Donald Trump too toxic for them,” Swecker said.