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Clinton expands battleground state map with push into Arizona, Georgia

Supporters react to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as the candidate speaks to Arizona voters at a Get Out the Vote rally at Carl T. Hayden Community High School gymnasium in Phoenix. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Representatives of Hillary Clinton's campaign phoned state Democratic leaders in Arizona and Georgia this week to alert them of plans to begin transferring funds to hire more field organizers in those states, according to several Democratic officials familiar with the calls.

Polls in both states — which Republican nominee Mitt Romney carried in 2012 — show a tightening race between Clinton and Donald Trump. The move by the Clinton campaign suggests a bid to expand the number of battleground states in play in November.

A Democrat familiar with the campaign’s plans said the outlays in Arizona and Georgia would be “in the six figures” for now, with plans to use the money to hire staff. No television ads are in the works, the Democrats said.

The money, which sits in a joint fund controlled by Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, will flow to coordinated campaigns with the state parties in Arizona and Georgia.

If nothing else, an additional investment in the two states could force Trump to spend more money and time in places he needs to win to achieve a path to victory. Trump, who has been slow to take to the airwaves across the country, is not on television in either of the two states that Clinton is now targeting.

The list of Republicans who reject their presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and support his Democratic opponent keeps growing. (Video: The Washington Post)

The new Democratic outlay could also help promote congressional and down-ballot candidates in Arizona and Georgia, earning Clinton goodwill with party officials there.

Republican officials say Trump could lose to Clinton in key battleground states

In Arizona, a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls gives Trump a lead of less than one percentage point over Clinton. In Georgia, Clinton has an average lead of nearly two percentage points, according to the publication.

Neither state was among an initial batch of states the Clinton campaign has targeted with television advertising and money for larger field staffs.

Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, confirmed that she heard from Clinton campaign officials Monday night. “We look forward to working with the Clinton campaign over the coming months here in Georgia, and are excited about their interest in the state,” she said in a statement. “Secretary Clinton overwhelmingly carried this state in the Primary election and we stand ready to deliver GA to her in November.”

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia House minority leader and co-founder of the New Georgia Project — a nonpartisan group focused on registering black, Latino and Asian American voters — said the Clinton campaign’s decision “validates the work we’ve been pushing for” in recent years.

Abrams declined to share specifics of the Clinton team’s plans, saying that the campaign has been on the ground for weeks already.

Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in the United States, yet historically they've had the lowest voter turnout. Will that change this year? (Video: Alice Li/The Washington Post)

“Over the next few weeks, there will be conversations about where and how that increased investment will be deployed. More than anything, it signals the recognition of the changing tide in the South and in Georgia,” she said.

The New Georgia Project announced Monday that it has registered 70,000 new minority voters this year, predominantly African Americans but also Latinos and Asians. That’s on top of work the group has been doing since the 2012 cycle, where increased registration has helped Georgia Democrats make gains in state government. Democrats now have 61 seats in the Georgia House, far behind Republicans, who control 116 seats.

As Clinton launches registration effort, community groups focus on Asian Americans

Attempts to register Asian American voters in Georgia are on the rise, led by groups such as the nonpartisan Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Gwinnett County, outside Atlanta, is home to one of the three highest populations of Asian Americans — mainly South Asians, Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese. The county’s percentage of the Asian population has grown faster than in states such as California, Virginia and New York.

To ensure a Clinton victory in Arizona and Georgia, “You’re going to need $2 million to $3 million in each of those states to run a real field operation to include a strong vote-by-mail and phone program. Tight races such as these are always won during early vote,” said Albert Morales, a former Democratic National Committee official who has focused on minority voter outreach.

Ana Ma, a Democratic operative who has worked on statewide campaigns in Arizona, including Bill Clinton’s 1996 victory there, agreed that “a couple of million dollars” would be needed to secure a victory. Most of all, she said, “the principals” — Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), President Obama and their spouses — will need to show up in person.

This year, she predicted that the Clinton campaign “is going to give some love to test it out, and in September you’ll see whether the principals are planning on coming or are there already. Even if they’re mostly there to fundraise, it’s okay, because they could add a few spare hours for an event.”

In Georgia, the new influx of money is likely to be used to drive up black and Hispanic turnout in the metro Atlanta area, especially in DeKalb County. In Arizona, the money would be targeted at fast-growing Maricopa County, home of the populous Phoenix metropolitan area. There, a predominant Hispanic population could be mobilized to register and turn out to vote, potentially imperiling Trump’s chances as well as the reelections of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Arpaio, the county sheriff known for his hard-line stance against undocumented immigrants.

In recent weeks, the Clinton campaign has taken several steps aimed at expanding its reach beyond traditional Democratic voters. The campaign, for example, has coordinated endorsements of Clinton by several former Republican administration officials.

On Tuesday, that included two former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And on Tuesday and Wednesday, Kaine is scheduled to campaign in Texas, a Republican stronghold in presidential races.

In 2012, Republican nominee Romney defeated President Obama in Arizona, 53 percent to 44 percent. Romney won by a similar margin in Georgia, 53 percent to 45 percent. In Texas, Romney defeated Obama, 57 percent to 41 percent.

O’Keefe reported from Washington.