At a private donor retreat, Trump team says Minnesota and Virginia are in play

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Top officials for former President Donald Trump’s campaign believe they can flip Democratic strongholds Minnesota and Virginia into his column in November, they told donors behind closed doors at a Republican National Committee retreat Saturday.

Brandishing internal surveys, pollster Tony Fabrizio and senior advisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita delivered a set of presentations that focused on finances, messaging and the political map, according to two people who were present at the Four Seasons resort here. Fabrizio’s numbers, posted on a slide shared with NBC News, showed Trump ahead of President Joe Biden by small margins in the key swing states from 2020 — including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia.

The Trump camp’s discussion of expanding the electoral map deeper into the Democratic territory of Minnesota and Virginia comes as Biden’s re-election team says it is eyeing North Carolina — which Republicans have won in three consecutive presidential races — and Florida, where the GOP has prevailed in the last two presidential elections. Biden took the 2020 contest by a margin of 74 electoral votes, with victories in the pivotal states of Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia coming from a cumulative advantage of about 44,000 votes.

“I think that the Biden campaign is deliberately playing a faux game by talking about [how] they’re going to expand the map in Florida and North Carolina,” LaCivita said in a telephone interview with NBC News. “But we have a real, real opportunity in expanding the map in Virginia and Minnesota.”

The top lines of the internal polling shared with donors are relatively consistent with sparse public surveys that show Biden with a small edge in Virginia, while Trump’s advantage in his own polling in Minnesota is at odds with the few public surveys in that state. But all of the public polls in Minnesota and Virginia — and the trials run by Trump’s campaign — fall within their margins of error, suggesting tight races in both states.

Trump’s team tested head-to-head, four-way and six-way races in each state, according to LaCivita. In the six-way trial in Minnesota, which includes four independent candidates, Trump and Biden were tied at 40% apiece, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at 9%, he said. When the field was narrowed to four candidates, Trump led Biden 46% to 41%. In a head-to-head matchup, Trump led Biden 49% to 46%.

Biden won Minnesota by about 7 percentage points in 2020, and the state has not favored a Republican nominee for president since Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign.

In Virginia, Trump’s internal survey showed Biden leading Trump 40% to 37% in a six-way test that included Kennedy at 8%. Biden led Trump 48% to 44% in a head-to-head matchup. And, in a four-way race, Biden had a 42%-to-41% advantage over Trump.

Trump aides declined to make the full surveys, including their methodology, available to NBC News. Campaigns often use the promise of playing offense on new turf as an incentive for donors to give money to support those efforts.

“Trump’s team has so little campaign or infrastructure to speak of they’re resorting to leaking memos that say ‘the polls we paid for show us winning, don’t ask us to show you the whole poll though.’ Sure, guys,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said.

“While we have 150 offices open with hundreds of staff across the key battlegrounds, the RNC is closing offices and hemorrhaging money on legal fees,” she added. “Joe Biden has hit every battleground at least once, while Trump’s in the courtroom or on the golf course. We’ll see how that translates in November.” “

Jonathan Allen reported from Washington, D.C.; Matt Dixon from Orlando, Florida; and Olympia Sonnier, Dasha Burns and Abigail Brooks from Palm Beach, Florida.

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