NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton and her allies have an animating aim in the final 14 days of the 2016 contest – drive up the score so dramatically that claims by Donald Trump of Democratic vote-rigging will be rendered inconsequential thanks to the margin of victory.
And if their final bombardment of campaign activity drags down-ballot Democrats across the finish line and sweeps proponents of Trump’s alt-right ideology off the political table, all the better.
Already having banked millions of early votes as Trump’s campaign spiraled over the last three weeks, Clinton’s headquarters and battleground states teams now see a high-single-digit margin of victory as realistic – something that looks as decisive as Barack Obama’s 2008 win over John McCain.
To maintain that lead, the Clinton operation, its allies at the Democratic National Committee, and the party’s Senate and House campaign wings are deploying dozens of surrogates to battleground and “reach” states, investing in an advertising and get-out-the-vote blitz and pumping new organizing muscle into a trio of Republican states that are trending Clinton’s way.
It’s now, in this final closing stretch, that Clinton’s closest political allies think her early focus on building an organization gap over Trump will matter most.
“The idea of a fair election — of a peaceful transition of power — is not a Democratic value. It’s not a Republican value. It, literally, is an American value. I volunteered with 7th and 8th graders a couple of months ago and we talked about the peaceful transition of power, and those kids understood it,” said Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “It’s crazy to me that a candidate for President of the United States doesn’t. So the only way we can stamp this out is to have incredible turnout, and let it die in a corner.”
“The larger the margin, the less relevant Trump and the Trump philosophy will be post-election,” added former South Carolina governor Jim Hodges, a Clinton ally.
Democrats aligned with Clinton note that over the course of the race her numbers have improved and Trump’s have fallen whenever the cycle offers up widely-viewed opportunities for side-by-side candidate comparisons, such as the summer conventions and fall debates. Without any such moments left on the calendar before Election Day, Democrats expect some narrowing in Clinton’s lead — which stood at 6 points nationally as of Monday, according to the RealClearPolitics average, and reached 12 points in the latest ABC News survey.
Internally, the Clinton team is closely watching — and cheering — early voting and registration figures in strategically imperative battlegrounds.
In Nevada, they’re pointing to huge Democratic turnout, including in Las Vegas’ Clark County, over the first two days of early voting, compared to anemic performance among Republicans. In Arizona, a 20,000 vote deficit for Democrats at this point in 2012 has turned into a 1,000 vote lead now. In Colorado, the number of registered Democrats recently overtook the number of registered Republicans for the first time ever. And in Florida, Republicans entered the week only ahead of Democrats by 1.7 percent, compared to a 5.3 percent lead at this point four years ago. That’s largely on the back of a 99 percent increase in Latino voting compared to this time in 2012.
To buttress Clinton’s advantage in most swing states and minimize her deficit in others, the campaign has configured a schedule for Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine that uncharacteristically has them both publicly campaigning with little pause before Election Day. Joining them on the trail at a picked-up pace will be their highest-profile surrogates, including: Obama, who was in Nevada for Clinton on Sunday and is due to visit Florida on Friday; former President Bill Clinton, who spent the weekend in Florida and is now headed to North Carolina; Vice President Joe Biden, due to visit Ohio and Pennsylvania this week; Senator Elizabeth Warren, scheduled for New Hampshire and North Carolina; Michelle Obama, in North Carolina on Thursday; and Bernie Sanders.
And, in a decision that Democrats describe as evidence that the campaign is still planning an expensive final push, Clinton, Kaine, and Obama all still have high-dollar private fundraisers on their schedule this week, according to invitations reviewed by POLITICO.
In a bid to energize base voters, meanwhile, the campaign is amplifying its number of large-scale organizing events: it’s using battleground state get-out-the-vote concerts with artists such as Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, and Jon Bon Jovi. In Colorado, the campaign held “Nasty Women and Bad Hombres Organizing Launches” on Thursday after Trump used those terms at the last debate, and in Ohio, Latino leaders launched “Hombres for Hillary.”
That push is supplemented on the airwaves, where Clinton’s team plans to hit voters repeatedly with one positive ad that declares the Democrat believes the United States is a place for everyone and another that features Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim-American soldier who died in Iraq in 2004, asking whether Trump’s America would have a place for his son.
Beyond the core battlegrounds, meanwhile, Democrats are gearing up for a show of force in three Republican states where Clinton appears to be competitive, forcing Trump to pay attention rather than allowing him to focus on the states on the margins, such as Florida or North Carolina. And Clinton is set to visit Iowa — the toughest traditional swing state for her — on Friday, in an indication that she’s not ceding it to Trump.
In Utah, where third-party candidate Evan McMullin may be able to stop Trump from picking up the six reliable GOP electoral votes, Clinton is adding staffers. In Arizona, where the party leaders feel emboldened after Clinton dropped in $2 million for ads and organization to run alongside recent visits from Chelsea Clinton, Sanders, and Michelle Obama, Democrats are now raising money for Latino get-out-the-vote efforts pegged to former governor Jan Brewer’s declaration to the Boston Globe last week that Hispanics “don’t vote.” (“Challenge accepted,” read the campaign cash appeal.)
Finally, in Georgia — where Clinton’s main super PAC Priorities USA Action is commencing advertising — Rep. John Lewis marched with millennial voters across the Nelson Street Bridge to line up in front of their early voting location in Atlanta and kick off the ballot-casting period last Monday.
Such red-state pushes are supplemented by the $1 million investment from Clinton’s team into Indiana and Missouri — two states the candidate is unlikely to visit in the home-stretch — for the Senate fight, a renewed focus for the top of the ticket.
“The dream scenario for Republicans is Trump is annihilated but he does not impact their down-ticket races. But I think that’s an unlikely scenario,” said Hodges, pointing to the effect on down-ballot races of Republican-heavy states seeing smaller-than-usual margins of victory for Trump. “It’s a huge deal for congressional races, because if you can keep the top of the ticket margin down and you’re in a swing district, you can win.”
The opportunity to regain the Senate and climb back in the House also explains why Clinton and Obama have started offering stinging rebukes of GOP candidates in their states: Clinton went out of her way to lance Sen. Pat Toomey in Pittsburgh on Sunday, shortly after Obama went after Sen. Marco Rubio outside of Miami on Thursday and before he zeroed in on Rep. Joe Heck in Nevada on Sunday.
And it’s why Priorities is now up with an anti-Toomey spot in Pennsylvania and an anti-Sen. Kelly Ayotte ad in New Hampshire.
“Everyone talked about the lack of enthusiasm on the Democratic side,” said California Rep. Xavier Becerra, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who is currently planning trips on behalf of Democrats in Texas, Arizona, Nebraska, California, Colorado, and Nevada while trying to find time to fit in Florida and Pennsylvania.
“That’s obviously wrong now.”
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