With one week before election day, Donald Trump spent the bulk of Tuesday campaigning in Wisconsin, a state that has not backed a Republican for president since 1984.
His unorthodox visit came on the heels of trips to Michigan and Pennsylvania, states that also haven’t gone red since the 1980s.
For the final stretch of the presidential race, the GOP nominee has embarked on a strategy of long-shot bids, holding rallies and airing ads in states that have been reliably Democratic in recent elections. Trump’s gambit sacrifices face time in battleground states, but if successful would upend the political map and likely hand him the White House.
“The Trump campaign is on the offensive and expanding our presence in battleground states into blue states,” David Bossie, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, told reporters Tuesday.
Trump’s campaign believes it can flip states by relying on his populist rhetoric that connects with white working-class voters hurt by the Rust Belt’s decline in manufacturing.
Michigan was among 13 states where the Trump campaign placed a $25-million ad buy for the final week of the race, digital director Brad Parscale announced. Pennsylvania and New Mexico, other mostly reliably blue states, were also on the list.
At a rally Monday in Warren, Mich., Trump seemed almost giddy as he repeatedly mentioned how a win in the state would buck historical precedent.
“No Republican has won since like Reagan or something many years ago” — it was actually George H.W. Bush — “and I said, ‘I love Michigan,’” he said.
Trump has made a number of high-profile visits to the state, and he has enthusiastic grass-roots groups such as the Michigan Conservative Coalition organizing flash mobs and knocking on doors on his behalf.
His campaign also has more than 30 offices in the state and consistently knocks on at least 100,000 doors a week, said Scott Hagerstrom, who runs Trump’s campaign in Michigan.
The biggest challenge, he said, is “to get people to believe again, to believe that it’s possible.”
Trump faces steep hurdles in Michigan, Pennsylvania and here in Wisconsin, a state that has voted Democratic since 1984. He trails in public polls by 5 to 6 points in those states, according to averages maintained by RealClearPolitics.
But if the race tightens significantly, the time invested in those states may yield dividends.
“The campaigns are interested in potential tipping-point states if the race closes to 50-50 nationally, not just where they are in the polls right now,” said Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University. “In a closer national race, Michigan should be competitive.”
Late-autumn encroachment on rival territory is not unique to Trump. Past elections also have seen eleventh-hour maneuvers, such as then-GOP nominee Mitt Romney making an incursion into Pennsylvania two days before the 2012 election and George W. Bush visiting California just before the 2000 vote.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is making her own efforts to pick off typically red states, particularly Arizona. She’ll hold a rally in Tempe on Wednesday, and running mate Tim Kaine will give a speech entirely in Spanish in Phoenix on Thursday.
Campaign manager Robby Mook called Arizona a “battleground state” based on internal analysis of early-voting data and voter registration trends.