Clinton adding staff in Utah as her campaign eyes expansion into red states

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is adding staff and stepping up surrogate visits to Utah, a once-reliably Republican state that recent polls have shown suddenly competitive amid Donald Trump’s struggles.

The moves — relatively modest for now — come amid a broader push by the Democratic nominee to expand the map during the final weeks of the campaign. She has upped her game in Arizona, another traditionally red state, and is making overtures in Georgia and Texas, where television ads are running.

Whether Clinton carries any of these states, her campaign is aiming to make Trump play defense — and spend limited money — in places he should have nailed down long ago.

Five new staffers will be arriving in Utah early next week, according to a Democratic official with knowledge of the expansion, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk more freely about campaign strategy. The new arrivals, first reported by BuzzFeed, will supplement a bare-bones office previously opened in Salt Lake City.

Trump has struggled to connect with Utah’s large Mormon population, a weakness Clinton has sought to exploit with the recent launch of a “Mormons for Hillary” group.

She also penned an op-ed in the Deseret News, a newspaper owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Among the campaign surrogates coming to the state are former senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota — a Republican who recently converted to Mormonism. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem also held a rally for Clinton on Friday in Salt Lake City.

It remains to be seen how serious Clinton really is about the state, where the calculus has been complicated by an independent candidate, Evan McMullin, who is running close to Trump and Clinton in the state.

A week ago, Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, appeared remotely on a Salt Lake City television station, declaring that Clinton intended to make “a strong play” for the state, which hasn’t been carried by a Democrat since 1964.

“Hopefully we’ll even have candidates or spouses or high-profile surrogates visit here,” Kaine, a senator from Virginia, told television station KTVX.

So far, there are no announced plans for Clinton or Kaine to campaign in the state.

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