Michelle Obama, Chelsea Clinton and Bernie Sanders to go to Arizona

Story highlights

  • Michelle Obama is also expected to campaign in Arizona, the campaign announced
  • Arizona has not voted for a Democrat presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1996.

(CNN)Hillary Clinton's campaign, hoping to force Donald Trump to spend time and resources in a reliably red state, is making a play for Arizona.

The campaign announced Monday morning that first lady Michelle Obama, who's been a forceful Clinton surrogate, is expected to go to Arizona on Thursday. The Clinton campaign is also expanding its television ad buy and direct mail starting this week.
    "This is a state that would really foreclose a way for Donald Trump to win the White House," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters on a conference call Monday.
    Mook said that Trump's rhetoric has made it possible for the campaign to expand the map and said the campaign would invest $2 million in television ads and direct mail in Arizona.
    Bernie Sanders, a Clinton surrogate who aides feel can boost turnout with young people, will also headline two campaign rallies in Flagstaff and Tucson, Arizona, on Tuesday and Chelsea Clinton will headline a rally in Tempe at Arizona State University on Wednesday.
    The events are the clearest attempt by Clinton's campaign to contest a state that has not voted for a Democrat presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1996.
    Recent polling in the state has found a tied race between Trump and Clinton. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last month from before the first presidential debate found Trump at 40% and Clinton at 38% in the four-way contest among likely voters, well within the poll's 3.8 percentage point margin of error.
    A series of groping allegations against Trump and a 2005 video of the Republican nominee making casual comments about sexual assault have rocked the Trump campaign, causing some Republican lawmakers to revoke their support of their nominee -- including Arizona Sen. John McCain. The spiral has also, in the eyes of Clinton's top aides, given them an opening in states like Arizona.
    The move is both a way to broaden Clinton's path to 270 electoral votes and force the Trump campaign to pour money into a state they shouldn't have to contest.
    There is some disagreement inside the campaign, however, about whether they should reach to win states like Arizona.
    Some aides believe it is worth it, hoping to embarrass Trump on Election Day. Others are worried about overextending the campaign and losing focus on states like Ohio, Iowa and Florida, more traditional swing states that Trump must win in November to capture the White House.
    Clinton's last visit to Arizona was in March, during the state's primary. Her aides are currently batting around plans make a trip to Arizona, according to the aides, weighing whether the time is worth it given the state is not key to Clinton's path to victory.
    Clinton's campaign began airing ads in Arizona in September, but Priorities USA, her top-dollar super PAC, said it had no plans to spend in the state.
    One reason that Clinton aides are particularly high on Arizona: Mormon voters.
    Mormon leaders fled from Trump after video of him making casual comments about sexual assault and aides hope that those decisions would reverberate into Arizona, where 6% of the population is Mormon.
    Clinton has made a number of overtures to Mormons, but aides acknowledged Monday that even if Mormon voters aren't ready to vote for her, not voting for Trump could be just as important.
    Aides also feel boosting turnout among young people and Latinos in Arizona could lead to a win.