President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Sept. 21 in Swanton, Ohio. | Tony Dejak/AP Photo
President Donald Trump is slated to hold a Friday evening rally in Virginia — but the trip is really about the next state over.
Advisers say the idea behind Trump’s event in Newport News at the end of the week is to woo voters in neighboring North Carolina, a key battleground where absentee balloting has begun.
Though Virginia was a battleground state in recent elections, the state is widely seen as far out of reach for the president this year. But the Newport News media market also covers eight hard-to-reach rural counties in northeastern North Carolina. Considering the logistical hurdles of flying in Air Force One, the president’s team settled on the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport as the most realistic venue for an event that could spark interest in that part of North Carolina.
Polls depict a tight race in North Carolina. A New York Times/Siena survey released last week showed Joe Biden leading by 1 point, while a USA Today/Suffolk survey had the former vice president leading by 3 points. In addition to the battle for the state’s 15 electoral votes, Trump’s performance will be closely tied to GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, who is fighting for a second term in a race that could decide control of the Senate in 2021.
Newport News’ media market also covers Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, where freshman Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria is in a competitive race.
It’s not the first time Trump has appeared in one state for a political rally targeting another state. Most notably, in 2017, the president held an event in Pensacola, Fla. that bolstered Alabama Republican Roy Moore just before a Senate special election, which Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones.