Hillary Clinton's campaign is making a push in Utah, a red state that appears to turning a shade of purple with Donald Trump having trouble attracting voters among the state's large Mormon population and with native son Evan McMullin's independent campaign pulling votes away from both candidates.
"There is no doubt that Donald Trump's offensive rhetoric has made Utah more competitive than ever before," Marlon Marshall, Clinton’s director of state campaigns, told BuzzFeed News. "We are going to make investments to talk to voters and win the state of Utah."
According to a Democratic official with knowledge of the campaign's expansion, five new staffers are to arrive in the western state early next week to supplement a bare-bones office in Salt Lake City. In addition, surrogates will arrive to speak in the state, and the campaign plans to spend money from its war chest for advertising and organizing efforts.
The campaign would not say how much the expanded effort would cost, but sources with knowledge of the strategy told BuzzFeed the amount would be less than planned in Arizona, another red state where Clinton is courting voters.
Meanwhile, several Utah polls show Clinton and Trump are in a dead heat with McMullin, who entered the race long after they were both nominated. McMullin, a Mormon, is a former CIA officer who was also chief policy adviser for the House Republican Conference.
He's made it onto the Utah ballot but entered the race too late to join the ballot in most major states, such as Texas, California and New York, and does not appear on voters' polls that include Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
Clinton also got high marks in Utah after publishing an opinion piece in The Deseret News about her record on religious freedom issues.
The article appealed to Mormons, and soon, the campaign kicked off its "Mormons for Hillary" group.
Clinton's running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, appeared for a remote interview with Salt Lake City television station KTVX, saying Clinton would make a "strong play" for Utah. Democrats have not carried the state since 1964, reports The Washington Post.
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