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Clinton shifting staff to general election swing states

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is redeploying its army of primary election staff to traditional general election battleground states in preparation for a campaign against Republican Donald Trump, according to a senior campaign official.

The initial deployment is likely to hit states that have swung between Republicans and Democrats in recent cycles, according to the official, such as Ohio and Florida.

Additionally, with the billionaire businessman looking increasingly likely to be the GOP nominee, the Clinton campaign sees an opportunity to expand beyond this map, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss internal plans and wouldn’t specify which new battleground states the campaign might initially target.

The redeployment comes as the campaign is ratcheting back advertising in upcoming Democratic primary states, including Oregon and California. It also follows a decision by her challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, to lay off hundreds of staff after losing four of five critical Eastern primary states to Clinton on Tuesday.

Even Sanders is admitting his path to the nomination is narrow, with few opportunities ahead to scoop up the delegates needed to win, and he’s been toning down rhetoric critical of Clinton.

Mo Elleithee, a campaign official during her 2008 White House bid, said Sanders has earned the right to stay in the race. “But Hillary Clinton has earned the right to start campaigning as the nominee,” he said. “And it’s actually more than a right, it’s an obligation at this point,” he said.

“There’s no point in playing coy anymore,” said Elleithee, who is now unaffiliated with the campaign and heads Georgetown’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. “The general election is still going to be a challenge, and they need to be out there and organizing.”

Meantime, Sanders is still campaigning in states next up on the primary calendar, including Indiana and Oregon, as he seeks to maximize his leverage heading into July’s Philadelphia convention. Sanders still maintains his goal is to become the Democratic nominee, yet he’s also discussed what happens if he loses, saying he wants to assemble “the strongest progressive agenda any political party has ever seen.”

The Clinton campaign official wouldn’t give details on specifically where staff will be concentrated. However, those close to the campaign say the second wave is likely to hit states that Barack Obama made competitive during his first White House run eight years ago, such as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. The campaign also already has a state director in Colorado.

“That is the starting point this time,” said Elleithee. The real question is whether, with Trump as her likely competitor, Clinton can even further expand the map to states that Democrats believe will eventually fall into their column given the nation’s changing demographics. These include Arizona, Georgia and the big prize, said Elleithee, of Texas.

Democrats had assumed it would take several cycles, potentially until 2024, for the demographic composition of those states to tip them toward the Democratic Party. “You’re beginning to hear some Democrats say ‘You know what, given the way this race is shaking out we may be able to accelerate that,’’’ Elleithee said.

source: USA TODAY by Heidi M Przybyla – Friday, April 29, 2016

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