Trump in the Tri-State

GOP nominee may be preparing offensive in heavily Democratic NY-NJ-CT region

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 22 Sep 2016 at 2:30 PM

President Obama in 2012 won Connecticut and New Jersey by 17 percentage points and New York by 28 points — not exactly the stuff of typical battleground states.

The last time any of those states broke Republican in a presidential race was 1988. Yet this year’s Republican nominee, Donald Trump, may be set to compete on this decidedly Democratic turf.

“He is unwilling to concede New Jersey. He is unwilling to concede Connecticut, because as he said, ‘I’ve spent my life and my career here.'”

“I think you’re going to see him in those places … That’s my understanding,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Wednesday. “You know who’s motivating that decision? Donald Trump. He is unwilling to concede New Jersey. He is unwilling to concede Connecticut, because as he said, ‘I’ve spent my life and my career here. I’ve built great businesses and opportunities for people here.'”

The tri-state area  New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut — has the added campaign advantage of sharing a massive media market. If a campaign event in southwest Connecticut, Long Island, New York City, or northern New Jersey is covered by local broadcast news stations, viewers in all of those regions will see it.

As Trump has gained in the polls, some national observers are giving these states another glance.

RealClearPolitics, which maintains a ranking of states’ competitiveness, moved Connecticut from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic on Sept 15.

Unfriendly Territory
Tri-State region leans Democratic.
New York
2012 result: Obama 63%-35%
Last GOP win: 1984
2012 result: Obama 58%-41%
Last GOP win: 1988
New Jersey
2012 result: Obama 58%-41%
Last GOP win: 1988

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said campaigning in places like the Constitution State helps project a national message and dovetails with his willingness to appear at inner-city churches and other venues where Republicans traditionally don’t venture.

“It fits into his theme that every American matters,” he said.

Romano suggested that the state’s unpopular Democratic governor, Dan Malloy, could give Trump an opening.

“The families of this state, the middle class, are suffering under Dan Malloy’s policies, and they recognize that Hillary Clinton’s polices are identical,” he said.

Trump already has campaigned in Connecticut since winning the nomination, holding a rally in Fairfield last month. Romano said 5,000 people waited for hours in a 98-degree gymnasium to see the candidate.

"If the numbers keep trending the way they are, he may come back," Romano said.

Spencer Kimball, a pollster at Emerson College in Boston, said he thinks New York and Connecticut are out of reach for Trump. An Emerson poll conducted this month, however, put Clinton ahead by just 4 points in New Jersey.

"Trump is doing better with registered Democrats in [liberal-leaning] states where he's doing well," Kimball said.

He said Democrat Hillary Clinton has had trouble nailing down her base — particularly voters who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders. In 19 states where Emerson has asked the question, Clinton has done no better than 62 percent with that group. In some states, like New York and Massachusetts,  those voters disproportionately favor Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

In Maine, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, however, the horse-race margin is in the single digits because Sanders voters are more likely to back Trump. In New Jersey, Trump is winning nearly one in five Sanders voters, according to the poll.

Despite its recent voting history, New Jersey could back a Republican presidential candidate under the right circumstances, Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker said.

"New Jersey is not California or even Massachusetts," he said.

But Baker isn't convinced 2016 is the GOP's time in the Garden State. Baker pointed to Gov. Christie's struggling approval numbers and the Democrats' organizational strength in the more urban parts of Northern New Jersey as opstacles it would be hard for Trump to overcome.

Christie told LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham that Trump should not feel compelled to spend the entire campaign in swing states like Florida and Ohio if he would like to take his case to blue states.

"I've encouraged him that if that's what he wants to do and he feels strongly in his heart about it, that he shouldn't let any strategist talk him out of it," he said. "The idea of expanding this map was always part of the Trump overall strategy — that Trump would put states in play that other Republican candidates, theoretically, could not."

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