RICHMOND — Donald Trump is about to visit Virginia and pour $2 million into TV ads in the state, a campaign official said Monday, pushing back on reports that the Republican presidential hopeful was abandoning the key battleground.
“Instead of a pullout, it’s actually a doubling down,” Mike Rubino said in an interview with The Washington Post on Monday. “We are going to compete here like we’re competing in every other battleground state.”
The news came a day after the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University released a poll that had Clinton up by 15 points in Virginia. Clinton’s 44-to-29-percent advantage in the survey is more than double her lead in late September.
The poll was conducted after The Washington Post reported on a video recording of Trump making lewd comments about women during a 2005 appearance for “Access Hollywood” and his continued defense of the remarks as “locker room talk” during the second presidential debate.
Political observers in both parties think Virginia is out of reach for Trump.
But Rubino insisted that the commonwealth is still in play. He spoke about the campaign’s plans after an especially tumultuous stretch in Virginia.
Last week, the campaign fired its state co-chairman, Corey Stewart, for staging a protest at Republican National Committee headquarters. Stewart, a candidate for governor in 2017, had accused “establishment pukes” of abandoning Trump after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape.
Then, on Thursday, Stewart publicly confirmed rumors that Trump was pulling out of Virginia. The campaign said it was only temporarily shifting some Virginia staffers to North Carolina for early voting, but the move was widely viewed as conceding defeat in a critical swing state.
Rubino said Trump assured him that the campaign was still fighting for Virginia and its 13 electoral votes.
“Mr. Trump called me the next day and said, ‘What’s going on? We’re playing in Virginia. We’re doubling down. We’ll be doing rallies there. We’re going to do TV ads,’ ” Rubino said. “And that’s all coming true.”
Rubino said the campaign was investing $2 million in TV ads. He declined to specify which Virginia media markets would carry them.
Trump has not advertised in the state since about Labor Day. The lack of advertising has been widely viewed as a sign that the campaign did not think the state was competitive.
Yet Trump and key surrogates have continued to visit the state even during the advertising drought. Trump has made at least eight visits since late July. His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has made seven, including one last week. Pence devoted three days to Virginia this month: Oct. 3 in Ashland, Oct. 4 in Farmville for the vice-presidential debate, and Oct. 5 in Harrisonburg.
Rubino said Trump is about to return, but declined to be specific.
“You’ll be seeing him very soon,” he said.
For months, polls have shown Democrat Hillary Clinton with a comfortable lead over Trump in Virginia, a state where the billionaire owns a vineyard and golf course. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday showed Clinton with a modest four-point lead nationally.
A Clinton spokeswoman said her campaign remains active in Virginia.
“With more people voting in this election than any in history, organizers and volunteers in every corner of the commonwealth will continue to build on our strong organization to help turn out voters in support of Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine and Democrats up and down the ballot in November,” said Sarah Peck, a Clinton spokeswoman.