WHITE PLAINS, New York (AP) — Hillary Clinton is expanding her operations in states Democrats haven’t won in decades, her campaign said Monday, a sign of confidence in her standing in the presidential race and mounting efforts to win control of the Senate.
First lady Michelle Obama, one of Clinton’s most effective surrogates, is making Clinton’s case in Phoenix on Thursday, while the campaign puts an additional $2 million in television ads, direct mail and digital spots to help Arizona Democrats running in competitive races for the House and Senate. Clinton’s team is also putting an additional $1 million into efforts in Missouri and Indiana, and expanding already existing operations by $6 million in seven battleground states, according to campaign manager Robby Mook.
Even if Clinton doesn’t end up needing any of the normally solid-red states to win the White House, her team believes that a wide presidential margin of victory will help end Donald Trump’s political movement and undermine his charges of a rigged election. A former senator, Clinton has long been concerned with Democrats winning not only the White House but control of the Senate, underscoring how closely linked she believes her success as president would be to having her party in power on Capitol Hill.
Democrats aren’t alone in worrying about Trump’s rhetoric about casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election system.
In a Monday morning blitz of Tweets, Trump lashed out at Republicans who have tried to tone down his rhetoric, calling his own party’s leaders “so naive” and claiming without evidence that large-scale voter fraud is real.
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” he tweeted Monday.
There is no evidence to back up Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud. A study by a Loyola Law School professor found that out of 1 billion votes cast in all American elections between 2000 and 2014, there were only 31 known cases of impersonation fraud.
The tweet was aimed at Republican leaders who in recent days have indirectly tried to soften Trump’s claim. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, expressed confidence in the voting system. Pence declared Sunday the ticket will “absolutely accept the results of the election.”
Republicans have suggested Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election are in response to what he says is biased media reporting on the accusations of sexual assault and misconduct against him. The candidate continued to defend himself on that front Monday, saying the accusations are “phoney” and “pushed big time by press.”
In another tweet, Trump linked to a video montage of Vice President Joe Biden greeting and hugging women at various events. The Democrat has not been accused of sexual improprieties, but has occasionally raised eyebrows for his lingering or awkward embraces of women.
The tweets showed Trump continuing to play a scattershot a defense rather than make his case to voters, with just three weeks left and much ground to make up in opinion polls.
Rather than campaigning in the tightest battlegrounds, Trump was slated to spend much of Monday out of sight before speaking in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a state where Clinton is viewed as having an edge. Clinton was spending the day with advisers near her home in New York, preparing for the final debate Wednesday night.
As she prepares, her campaign was hit with a new revelation on a persistent problem.
Newly released FBI documents show a senior State Department staffer sought to change the classification level of an email that was on Clinton’s private server. The official, State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, requested the change for an email related to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Kennedy said that would allow him to ensure the document was “never to be seen again.” The FBI did not change the classification level.
Clinton’s campaign also continues to answer for hacked emails being released by the thousands by WikiLeaks. The most recent batch showed Clinton generally avoided direct criticism of Wall Street as she examined the causes and responses to the financial meltdown during a series of paid speeches to Goldman Sachs.
WikiLeaks said Monday that founder Julian Assange’s internet access had been cut by an unidentified state actor. Few other details were immediately available.
Clinton’s team now says it sees opportunities in Arizona and Georgia and in Utah where the politically dominant Mormon community has taken issue with Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and positions on refugee issues.
Mook acknowledged Arizona is an “uphill climb,” but he said Trump has created opportunities for Clinton and Democrats running down the ballot, particularly with the state’s large Hispanic population.
Democrats expect the biggest voter turnout in election history, he said.
Vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine already has campaigned in Georgia, stopping at a community festival to urge Latinos to register to vote, and recently did an interview with a Utah television station.
“We’re 3½ weeks out and a state that we didn’t think was in play now is, and there’s a couple other states like that, too,” Kaine told ABC4 Utah on Thursday.
Associated Press Writer Kathleen Hennessey reported from Washington.