By Laura Vozzella,
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 pull out, 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.”
Rubino spoke about the campaign’s plans following an especially tumultuous stretch in Virginia. A week earlier, the campaign fired its Virginia co-chairman, Corey Stewart, for staging a protest at Republican National Committee headquarters. Stewart, a candidate for Virginia governor in 2017, had accused “establishment pukes” of abandoning Trump after he was heard bragging about groping women in a 2005 recording.
Then, on Thursday, Stewart turned around and 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 personally 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 of Virginia’s 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 earlier 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. But another poll, released Sunday by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, had Clinton up by 15 points in Virginia.