Trump promises a major push in blue state Connecticut

Republican presidential nominee’s foray into Democrat stronghold raises questions; he says he has ‘so many friends’ there

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Fairfield, Connecticut, August 13, 2016. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Fairfield, Connecticut, August 13, 2016. (AP/Evan Vucci)

FAIRFIELD, Connecticut (AP) — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made an unusual foray Saturday night into deep-blue Connecticut, pledging to make “a big play” for the Democratic stronghold.

Connecticut has not voted for a Republican in a presidential election since 1988, when it went for George H.W. Bush, but Trump was undeterred.

“I’m making a big play for Connecticut. Normally the party wouldn’t make a play,” Trump told the crowd in a sweltering Fairfield gym. “I love Connecticut. I have lived in Connecticut. I have so many friends in Connecticut.”

Trump’s sojourn into Connecticut raised eyebrows among many Republicans nervous about his slipping poll numbers in a series of key swing states and battlegrounds — and even some usual GOP turf. The wealthy southern coast of Connecticut, made up of tony New York City suburbs, has long been fertile fundraising ground and Trump held an event nearby before the rally.

But it is rare for a Republican to campaign in the Nutmeg State, though many Trump supporters in attendance in Fairfield were glad he did.

“You never know unless you try. People want change, even in Connecticut,” said Ray Ramaglia, 57, of Trumbull, Connecticut.

Others questioned the use of the candidate’s resources.

“I am glad he is here because it’s great to see him, but maybe he should be in Ohio,” said Francisco Limbos, 56, of Kent, Connecticut.

Trump has repeatedly suggested that he will compete in traditionally Democratic states, vowing to commit time and energy to places like California and his home state of New York. However, his efforts before the Connecticut rally have been minimal: He made one appearance in Maine, cancelled a rally in upstate New York and has largely restricted his campaigning to traditional battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

But his team has yet to rule out making a push into normally blue states like Oregon and Washington, as well as battlegrounds that have gone Democratic in recent cycles like Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Trump on Saturday railed against Connecticut’s high taxes and made fun of Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy’s name — “Dan? Daniel? Danny?” the celebrity businessman asked — but he spent far more of his energy going after other targets.

He bashed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as well as her husband’s infidelity, even saying that he was “so glad they kept the dress” that belonged to Monica Lewinsky and was presented as evidence of her affair with former President Bill Clinton.

Trump, a frequent media critic, also repeatedly denounced the press, prompting the crowd to jeer the reporters at the rally more than a dozen times. He saved much of his vitriol for The New York Times and said “maybe we’ll start thinking about taking their press credentials away.”

Trump has banned several media outlets from covering his events, including The Washington Post, Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post.

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, suggested Saturday he may release his tax returns before the election in November, a move that would put him at odds with Trump, who has refused to make public any information about the taxes he and his companies have paid.

Earlier in the day Pence had not responded to reporters’ questions about his tax returns. But he wasn’t definitive in an interview with WABC in New York and the campaign didn’t return calls requesting more information.

“I believe we’re completing those forms right now, as is appropriate under federal law, and we’ll be filing that,” Pence told WABC when asked about financial disclosure. “But I promise you, when my forms are filed and when my tax returns are released, it’s going to be a quick read.”

In a campaign appearance Saturday at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine urged supporters not to let favorable polling and positive punditry make them complacent when it comes to voting for the Democratic ticket.

“We have to assume that this is going to be hard. Nothing good in life comes easy,” Kaine said. “It will be hard and it will be close.”

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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