Much has been made over the last couple of days about Team Trump’s growing confidence that it can win in solid blue states. Citing rallies in Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie told The Washington Post: “States that haven’t usually been open to Republican nominees are going to see Mr. Trump and his supporters again and again. We see this like 1980 and 1984, when union leadership was against Ronald Reagan but many union members went for him. That’s what we think can happen in the Upper Midwest and in states like New Mexico—blue-collar voters going for Donald Trump. ... We’re on the offensive everywhere.”
But does Trump really have a chance in these states? It’s possible that the polls are wrong and that Trump’s internal numbers are saying something very different—a Bloomberg report from last week suggested that his campaign believed there were still millions of persuadable voters out there. But it’s more likely than not a Hail Mary. As TPM’s Josh Marshall wrote earlier today, there are two plausible explanations for Trump targeting blue states. The first is that he’s deluded about his chances—Mitt Romney’s campaign also very much believed it was on the cusp of victory in 2012. The second is that Trump needs to pick up states like Wisconsin and Nevada if he wants to win—even if he takes Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina on November 8, he could still lose without a couple of blue states.
But I’ll add one more fairly mundane but very plausible explanation, which is that it gets increasingly hard to spend resources in states like Ohio and Florida as you get closer to Election Day. Campaigns buy up ad space in the most important swing states early, which means that by late October and early November, it can be really hard to find a slot in Ohio and Florida. But campaigns still have money, which leads to things like Mitt Romney’s much-vaunted (at the time) foray into Pennsylvania.
Trump clearly thinks he has momentum now, but that still doesn’t mean that we should take his incursions into states like Pennsylvania seriously.