Trump to GOP: I’m expanding the map

Greg Nash

Donald Trump told skeptical Republican senators Thursday morning that he can beat Hillary Clinton in November by expanding the map of battleground states. 

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee told lawmakers he can win in Democratic-leaning states such as Michigan and Connecticut and won’t ignore liberal strongholds such as New York and California, according to lawmakers who attended.  

{mosads}Trump met with senators at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters for about an hour after meeting with House Republicans earlier in the morning. 

He made similar predictions about his competitiveness in blue states in the earlier meeting.

Trump highlighted a Rasmussen poll released this week showing him ahead of Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, by 2 points nationally.

He also defended his ability to raise money, a topic that stirred up a fuss on Capitol Hill last month when Trump reported only $1.3 million in his campaign account at the end of May. He said his fundraising is on track and predicted it would exceed expectations.

Trump highlighted Michigan and Connecticut as two states he could win even though they have a history of voting for Democrats in recent presidential elections. George H.W. Bush was the last Republican presidential candidate to win both states, in 1988. 

And Trump has his eyes on even bigger game: New York and California, two liberal strongholds that have 29 and 55 electoral votes, respectively.

“He said he’s not going to write off New York. He said he’s been advised not to spend time in California but he’s not going to ignore it,” said one lawmaker who attended the meeting.

Trump also said he thinks he’s doing well in Oregon, the source noted.

He hammered the FBI’s recent recommendation against prosecuting Hillary Clinton for what it termed “extremely careless” handling of classified information over a private email server. He called the decision “rigged,” a term he used publicly Tuesday, according to a lawmaker.

Senate Republicans described the meeting as friendly and cordial, even though Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday that he expected a “frank exchange” with the presumptive nominee. 

“We had a good meeting. It was a good discussion. Very good attendance,” he told reporters.  

“It was Trump at his best in a small room,” said another lawmaker.  

During the meeting, Trump had an exchange with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), one of his harshest critics in the Senate Republican conference.

“Sen. Sasse went to today’s meeting ready to listen. Sen. Sasse introduced himself to Mr. Trump and the two had a gracious exchange,” said a spokesman for Sasse.

Even so, Trump didn’t win him over.  

“Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed,” the spokesman added.

Republican senators pressed Trump on the need to improve the tone of the campaign, a persistent concern on Capitol Hill, where many GOP lawmakers worry about him turning off minorities and women from their party. 

“We talked about the necessity of moving forward in a positive and constructive manner,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who attended the meeting. 

Trump and Republican senators also discussed the need to focus the attention of voters on the sluggish economy, which they say is weighed down by excessive regulations.

“I think you’ll continue to see those of us on the right rally toward how do we stop this Obama economy that has destroyed jobs, reduced income, put 12 million more people in poverty,” Scott said.

—Jordain Carney contributed.

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