ALEXANDRA JAFFE and ALI VITALI, NBC News - RICHMOND, Va. (NBC) — Donald Trump's campaign is "pulling out of Virginia," a move that stunned staff in the battleground state, three sources with knowledge of the decision told NBC News.
The decision came from Trump's headquarters in New York and was announced on a conference call late Wednesday that left some Republican Party operatives in the state blindsided. Two staffers directly involved in the GOP's efforts in Virginia confirmed the decision.
The move to pull out of Virginia shows Trump is "running essentially a four state campaign," with the focus now shifting to battlegrounds critical to his chances in November: Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, a source with knowledge of the decision told NBC News.
Trump's former Virginia state chairman, Corey Stewart, who was recently fired by the Trump campaign for organizing a protest outside Republican National Committee headquarters, called the move "totally premature."
Stewart was not on the conference call, but said he was informed by a staffer who was.
"I think it's totally premature for the campaign to be pulling out of Virginia after so much work and all the hundreds … of hours of volunteer time and thousands and thousands of volunteers," Stewart said. "The only thing the campaign had to do was spend money on an ad campaign and it would have been competitive … I'm just disgusted."
Another Trump campaign staffer, who declined to be named, pushed back on the characterization, insisting that the decision hadn't been finalized. "There have been conversations about shifting resources," the source said, "but I haven't gotten any definitive answer on anything."
Virginia has been considered a battleground state since President Barack Obama won it in 2008 after decades of Republican presidential victories there. Trump has trailed Clinton in every poll in Virginia since August, by a margin that's only widened over the last month.
The decision, Stewart said, "makes it next to impossible to win the state," though he insisted it was winnable if the campaign had just invested in advertising
"They have not been spending money on an ad campaign for months. They've had a fraction of the number of paid staff as the Clinton campaign, despite promises by the RNC to boost that up," Stewart said.
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