Trump campaign gambles on blue state play in race’s final days

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GOLDEN, Colorado — Donald Trump is spending his last 10 days on the campaign trail traipsing into blue terrain.

“I think we’re winning Colorado if it’s a straight-up system,” Trump said on the stump here Saturday.

In addition to his stop in the Denver suburbs Saturday, Trump is trekking to Northern Colorado on Sunday and stopping by Albuquerque, New Mexico. On Monday, he’s barnstorming through Michigan.

“We’re going on offense here. We’re seeing these numbers move,” said Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications adviser. “Hillary has a ceiling she keeps bumping up against.”

Trump’s top staffers have been closely following the daily tracking poll from ABC News and The Washington Post, which showed Hillary Clinton at 47% nationwide and Trump trailing by just two points at 45% on Saturday.

That gauge had begun to narrow on a steady stream of tough news for Clinton this week, including rising Obamacare premiums and concerns about how Bill Clinton generated income through Clinton foundation donors. Then came FBI Director James Comey’s letter announcing he was, once again, reviewing emails potentially related to Clinton’s personal server.

Clinton’s rocky stretch has emboldened Trump’s team to try to expand the map — a potentially risky play so close to Election Day.

In Colorado, the GOP nominee still faces steep odds. The state voted twice for President Barack Obama and twice for President George W. Bush. The coalitions that deliver victory here — Latino voters and suburban women — have shown little affinity for Trump. His comments about grabbing women without their consent in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape — and the subsequent flood of allegations of sexual misconduct, all of which Trump has denied — appeared to be his death knell.

“He was essentially dead in Colorado yesterday morning,” said Dick Wadhams, a GOP operative and former Republican Party chairman in Colorado.

Then the FBI news broke.

Wadhams said that could rejuvenate GOP voters who had cooled on Trump and potentially lure in women who weren’t in Trump’s camp but still had reservations about voting for Clinton.

As for Wadhams, he plans to cast his ballot for the GOP nominee.

“There’s no doubt who I’m going to vote for. Am I excited about it? No,” he said, adding that he still isn’t sure whether Trump has a shot at victory here.

“This gives him a glimmer of hope here in Colorado. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s enough,” he added.

New Mexico, with its growing Latino population, is similarly challenging. It voted Republican just once in the last six presidential elections — for Bush in 2004.

As for Michigan, it’s a state that often entices Republican presidential candidates only to leave them feeling burned. The Mitten State hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

“It’s just one of these states that on paper looks close and in non-presidential years Republicans do really, really well,” said Katie Packer, a Michigan native who was the deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid.

But Michigan becomes a stretch in presidential cycles because of a sizable African-American population and union voters that tend to break for Democrats, she said.

“In 2012, we made the investment and the calculation because we had a candidate who was born and raised there,” Packer said. “Even we determined pretty early in the general election that it was probably out of reach.”

The Trump campaign believes a couple factors will help them put these states in play, though. Advisers are hopeful that the GOP protest vote will dissipate in the wake of the FBI news, bringing Republican holdouts into the fold. And they’re convinced Trump’s closing argument — casting Clinton as a corrupt politician and Trump as a change agent — will help them win over late-breaking independents.

It’s a pitch Trump is hammering home on the campaign trail.

“Public corruption is a grave and profound threat to a democracy,” Trump said Saturday in between jabs at Clinton over her email habits. “Government corruption spreads out like a cancer and infects the operations of government itself. If the corruption is not removed, then people are not able to have faith in their government.”

The candidate will also get an assist on the airwaves after writing a $10 million check to his campaign this week — a cash infusion it plans to use on a series of new ads.

Packer, a fierce Trump critic, isn’t budging, though. She still has no plans to vote for the GOP nominee.

“A lot of the email stuff is baked in. I think everything’s going to just settle back to where it was,” she predicted. “My opinion is that this race is over.”

By Sara Murray