Clinton looks to expand electoral map

Clinton looks to expand electoral map
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton responds to Trump tweets telling Dem lawmakers to 'go back' to their countries The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president MORE becomes the official Democratic nominee this week, with an eye toward expanding the electoral map this year.

That may be particularly critical, with recent polls showing a close race against GOP  presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE nationally as well as in some swing states.

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Heading into this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Clinton hopes to turn purple states such as Virginia and North Carolina more solidly blue and make red states like Arizona and Georgia competitive.

Trump has claimed that he, too, will compete for states that historically tilt Democratic like Pennsylvania and Michigan, where his message has been resonating with working-class white voters.

Enlarging the map will depend on an effective voter turnout operation.

Democrats frequently tout that their party wins elections when there’s higher voter turnout overall, and the Clinton campaign sees this race as no exception.

At a campaign event in the battleground state of Ohio last week during the Republican National Convention, Clinton, campaigning alongside Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump puts hopes for Fed revolution on unconventional candidate Budowsky: Harris attacked Biden, helped Trump Speaker Pelosi, seize the moment to make history on drug pricing MORE (D-Ohio), announced a national push to register 3 million voters to “commit” to voting this fall.

“It’s not enough to yell at your TV screen; it’s not enough to send nasty tweets,” Clinton said. “You have to get registered and get out to vote in November.

“Because Sherrod and I know if we get people registered and then persuade them to come out to vote, it won’t even be close,” the former first lady added to cheers and applause.

Looking beyond the usual targets like Ohio and Florida, the Clinton camp hopes Virginia and North Carolina, with growing minority populations, could potentially help deliver the 270 electoral votes she needs to win the White House.

She could get a boost in Virginia from her newly announced running mate, Virginia Sen. and former Gov. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineAcosta defends Epstein deal, bucking calls for resignation Republican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' Schumer calls on Acosta to step down over Epstein MORE, who also previously served as the mayor of Richmond.

President Obama won Virginia in both 2008 and 2012. He won North Carolina by a razor-thin margin in 2008, but the state narrowly went to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, despite holding the party’s convention in Charlotte that year.

Clinton’s decision to debut her joint appearance with Obama in that same city signals her plans to have a larger footprint in the Tar Heel State.

Her campaign has already gone on the air in North Carolina, and her main super-PAC, Priorities USA, plans to spend $11 million on TV ads there, according to The Charlotte Observer — some in conjunction with Emily’s List, which works to elect abortion-rights-supporting women.

Both North Carolina and Virginia also have a growing African-American population — a group that flocked to Clinton in the primaries and, according to a Quinnipiac University poll from late June, gave Trump only 1 percent support nationally.

But in addition to shoring up minority voters, election handicappers say she’ll also need to capture a portion of white voters who went for Romney in 2012.

“There’s a lot of wealthier, more educated white voters who maybe liked Romney but maybe don’t like Trump, and that’s her target and that’s the suburbs,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

If Clinton accomplishes this, observers in North Carolina see a next-to-impossible path to victory for Trump.

“I think it’s almost inconceivable to think that a Republican can win the White House while losing North Carolina,” said Andy Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. “That means she’s run the table on” the top-tier battleground states.

While North Carolina and Virginia appear rife with opportunity, GOP strongholds like Arizona and Georgia are going to be a tougher reach for Clinton.

In Arizona, Clinton is focusing on Hispanic voters, who may be disillusioned by Trump’s controversial rhetoric and his signature proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

A RealClearPolitics polling average shows Clinton nominally leading Trump in Arizona. The state has voted for a Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1952, with the exception of former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMarching toward a debt crisis The tragic cycle of genocide denial has returned: This time, Nigeria John Lithgow releases poem on the downfall of Acosta MORE’s win in 1996.

But Democrats feel emboldened in the Grand Canyon State, where nearly a quarter of its eligible voters are Hispanic and registration among that group continues to grow. The head of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials has projected that 13.1 million Hispanics nationwide will vote this year, an increase of about 2 million from 2012.

At a recent address to Hispanic leaders in Washington, D.C., Hillary Clinton urged Hispanics to vote in November. And last week, she scored the first-ever presidential endorsement of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Some in the state believe an investment in Arizona by Clinton would help Democrats continue to make inroads with these voters.

“Whether it goes in her direction in the future, Latinos are a really large voting bloc in the state,” said Chris Weber, political science professor at University of Arizona. “As they become more united behind one of the parties, it seems like that would be an effective strategy.”

Georgia has voted Republican in the last five elections, but Clinton’s husband was successful there in 1992. So far, polls from May show Trump leading by anywhere from 1 point to 9 points.

But Clinton could possibly win the state if she can effectively court its sizable minority vote. It will again come down to voter turnout, political observers say.

“If you’re looking to expand your brand, Georgia would be a place for the Democrats to do that in,” said Charles Bullock III, political science professor at University of Georgia.

Arizona and Georgia “would be sort of the cherry on top of an Electoral College victory,” said Kondik, though he believes Clinton is better off spending her time in states like North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Florida.

But others believe playing in states that would be a stretch for a candidate would be worth Clinton spending the extra time and money.

They say this strategy puts her on the offensive and forces Trump to defend states that should be solidly Republican — and use valuable time and resources he’ll need to compete in top-priority swing states.

“If I was the Clinton campaign, I’d make a big effort in Phoenix and Atlanta, if nothing else to make Trump spend money there that he can’t spend in Ohio,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.

Regardless of how Clinton performs this year, observers see these states becoming a critical part of the electoral puzzle for Democrats in the future. But the question hanging in the balance is when.

“I can definitely see states like North Carolina and Georgia becoming more important pieces of a future Democratic electoral map,” Kondik said. “It’s just the question [is]: Does that happen this year or not?”