PALM BEACH, Florida — Former President Donald Trump told Breitbart News exclusively that assuming he wins the GOP nomination for president again he will work to expand the universe of battleground states and aggressively compete against whoever Democrats nominate in states like New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Minnesota, and New Mexico.
Trump said he thinks he can compete in a number of states that Republicans have not won in many years in presidential elections. He said he plans to do rallies in these states, and work to try to win them—but maybe not as hard as the traditional battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia. Trump even threw out a possible idea of renting out the iconic Madison Square Garden to hold a rally in the heart of Manhattan in New York City.
“One of the other things I’m going to do — and I may be foolish in doing it — is I’m going to make a heavy play for New York, heavy play for New Jersey, heavy play for Virginia, heavy play for New Mexico, and a heavy play for a state that hasn’t been won in years, Minnesota,” Trump said in the more than two-hour-long interview at his luxurious seaside Mar-a-Lago resort here.
Asked what he means by make a “heavy play” for states like New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Virginia, and New Mexico, Trump said he plans to do rallies and speeches in those states as he campaigns for the presidency in the general election.
“I’m going to do rallies, I’m going to do speeches, I’m going to work them,” Trump said. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to work them as hard as I work Pennsylvania, where I’m doing very well.”
Trump mocked Biden as “Mr. Scranton,” a reference to how the current president regularly references his childhood in the working-class Pennsylvania city, calling Biden “such a fake” and saying “there’s just no way” that Biden will beat him in the Keystone State this year.
“But we’re going to do these other states too, and it will be a heavy move,” Trump said. “I may rent Madison Square Garden and that’s the belly of the beast, right?”
A Trump rally in Madison Square Garden certainly would be the “belly of the beast” in the heart of a Democrat stronghold, but it’s also in a city near and dear to Trump’s heart. Trump recently appeared at Madison Square Garden alongside former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, rocker Kid Rock, his son Donald Trump Jr., and UFC’s Dana White for the big UFC fight there in November. When Trump walked into the Garden, the crowd went wild. While that was a big moment for him, doing his own rally there would be a significantly bigger step and investment of campaign resources into the heart of a deep-blue state.
Tonight at UFC fights at Madison Square Garden pic.twitter.com/Jj3Ga5oSgo— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) November 12, 2023
Trump built his real estate empire in New York City, and famously expanded his family’s imprint into Manhattan from other boroughs in the biggest city in the country. As for New Jersey, Trump has spent his summers in his post-presidency there living at his Bedminster golf club an hour or so outside New York City—so he has deep personal connections to the region.
Trump mentioned several New York Republicans, including 2022 GOP gubernatorial nominee then-Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who endorsed Trump over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 GOP primaries. Zeldin had a better-than-expected performance statewide in New York against incumbent Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022, but still lost by about 380,000 votes. Trump thinks things have taken an even worse turn in the city and state he once called home in the two years since then under Democrat control, especially with the migration crisis, so he thinks that he may have a shot in New York. A year earlier in the 2021 gubernatorial election in New Jersey, Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy barely fended off GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli. That result was much closer than anyone expected, and closer than the New York race, with only about 84,000 votes separating the two.
“We have some very good people there,” Trump said. “So, I believe we have a chance to win New York. I believe we have a chance to win New Jersey. If you look at Lee, he lost by a pretty close race. But it’s 100 times worse now than it was two years ago. Now, you have people—you have migrants living on Madison Avenue. You can’t get into a hospital. You can’t get into a school. You go to a public school and half the kids are sitting there and have no idea what the teacher is saying. You can’t get into these schools. I think it’s really bad and I think the people in New York and New Jersey and a lot of these states are—it would have been semi-unthinkable but I think these are states that can be won.”
Trump has not lived in New York since he won the presidency—he moved to Washington, obviously, to live in the White House in early 2017 when he became president. Since he left office, he has lived primarily here at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, but has also spent his summers in northern New Jersey at his Bedminster property. Of New York City, though, he said things have taken a dark turn since he left the Big Apple.
“It’s a different place from when I left,” Trump said.
“I left New York 8 years ago,” Trump added later in the interview. “We had already suffered from De Blasio a little bit. But it hadn’t been long enough. He was a horrible mayor. He was the worst mayor in the history of New York. We were suffering from De Blasio a little bit but it was eight years ago when I left, and when I left it was the hottest thing. Now, you look at it and what they’ve done to that beautiful place is just horrible. So, I think I have a chance there. I will spend time that I would normally not be working on New York and New Jersey and other places.”
Migration has been a huge part of the strain on New York City in particular. In 2023 alone, according to a September report from the New York Post, the Big Apple took in more than 95,000 migrants–a number that has clearly surged to more than 100,000 in the ensuing months to round out the year. High crime rates in New York City, too, are hurting the Big Apple–and while murders are down from 2022 to 2023, increases in assaults, grand larcenies, and stabbings in 2023 have residents on edge. To top things off, a housing crisis has made the city much more expensive and difficult to live in.
Trump publicly committing to devoting resources and energy to winning states like New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Virginia, and New Mexico in a general election is a big commitment for a GOP presidential contender on the cusp of winning his party’s nomination for a third straight election. Even Trump seems to recognize how long the odds are in each, as he said it might be “foolish” to do so—but it was not that long ago that Trump saw something many other Republicans did not in the Rust Belt states in the American Midwest in the lead-up to the 2016 election. In fact, further out from that election than this interview is from the November 2024 election—way back in August 2015—Trump told Breitbart News he expected to win states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the 2016 general election. “Those are my states,” Trump said then.
Republicans had not won Ohio since 2004 until Trump turned it bright red in 2016 and again in 2020. The GOP had not won Michigan or Pennsylvania since 1988—and had not won Wisconsin since 1984—until Trump won them in 2016 before losing them in 2020. But Trump was right; he ended winning the whole Rust Belt and breaking down the blue wall in 2016.
New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Virginia, and New Mexico have not gone for the GOP nominee for president in a general election in decades. The last time a Republican won any of those five states was in 2004 when incumbent GOP president George W. Bush won New Mexico in his reelection bid after having lost New Mexico back in 2000. Bush also won Virginia in both 2000 and 2004. With the exception of Democrat Lyndon Johnson’s blowout 1964 win, Republicans had actually won Virginia in every single election from 1952 all the way through 2004 until Democrat Barack Obama finally took it back for the Democrats in 2008—and Democrats have not lost the Old Dominion in a presidential race since then.
The last time Republicans won New Jersey in a presidential race was in 1988 when George H.W. Bush crushed Democrat Michael Dukakis with a 426 electoral vote romp. Republican Ronald Reagan’s landslide 1984 reelection victory was the last time the GOP took New York State, when Reagan won 525 electoral votes across 49 states against Democrat Walter Mondale. The only state Reagan lost to Mondale was Mondale’s home state of Minnesota, along with Washington, DC. The last time the GOP won Minnesota in a presidential race was all the way back in 1972 when Republican Richard Nixon absolutely devastated Democrat George McGovern with a 520 electoral vote landslide win. Nixon won 49 states that year, and McGovern only held the liberal bastion of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, which awards three electoral votes to its winner, for a total of just 17 electoral votes. Nixon, of course, would just two years later due to the Watergate scandal resign the presidency, but his 1972 victory was at the time the biggest electoral college victory for a president of either party since before World War II when Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt won a second term in 1936 with 523 electoral votes. Only Reagan’s 1984 reelection surpassed it later—and Reagan’s victory that year remains the greatest total of electoral votes any president from any party has ever gotten in a single election in American history.
Though it might sound far-fetched, Trump’s plan to expand the battleground map might not be impossible. While public polling in each of these states has been scant, there are some polls—and some other signs—that Trump might be onto something here. As for New York, Siena College published a poll in late 2023 that found Trump within single digits behind Biden in the Empire State. The survey found Biden under 50 percent at just 46 percent, and less than 10 points ahead of Trump’s 37 percent. Given that Biden won New York by nearly 2 million votes in 2020—his nearly 61 percent was more than 20 percent better than Trump’s slightly less than 38 percent—if this polling from the college that partners with the New York Times to conduct surveys is even remotely plausible then the current president could have a race on his hands there.
In addition, some top Democrat strategists have privately been warning party leaders about the possibility that Virginia could be competitive for some time now, with one senior aide to a very high-ranking Democrat telling Breitbart News months ago that it could be a “sleeper battleground state” in November 2024. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, obviously won in 2021 in Virginia—and it is a state that Republicans dominated for decades in presidential races until Obama came along in 2008. Democrats celebrated some minor victories in state legislature elections in November 2023, but those were extremely tight margins and not nearly as big as they could have been even though Democrats did flip control of the state House of Delegates.
In New Jersey, longtime Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has been indicted again and is facing multiple primary challengers. Menendez’s legal problems could pose serious issues for Democrats going into November, especially if the wounded Democrat were to emerge from the primary victorious. Combined with Gov. Murphy’s poor numbers–one of Menendez’s challengers in the primary is actually Murphy’s wife, the first lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy–Democrats could have issues there too.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has been perennially close in recent election. In 2016, for instance, Trump came within about 45,000 voters of Democrat Hillary Clinton. In fact, not just the third-place candidate Libertarian Gary Johnson but also the fourth place candidate Never Trumper Evan McMullin both got more votes than the margin that separated Trump and Clinton in 2016 in Minnesota. Trump had barely done any events there, just an airport flyby rally and a fundraiser earlier in the year. In 2020, Biden did significantly better than Clinton in Minnesota but the margin that separated Trump and Biden was still fewer than 235,000 votes there.
New Mexico, similarly, has been close in both 2016 and 2020. In 2016, Clinton bested Trump by just about 66,000 votes—while the Libertarian Johnson, who was the governor there previously when he was a Republican, pulled in about 74,000 votes. In 2020, again, Biden built back the Democrat margin slightly to best Trump by about 100,00 votes—but again, that is a fairly slim margin.
One of the big variables in this election, too, will be third party candidates. Obviously, both Cornel West and Dr. Jill Stein are running for president right now as hard leftists and threaten to cut into Biden’s vote numbers. In addition, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has dropped out of the Democrat primary and is running now as an independent—a variable that could hurt Biden depending on which voters back him in November. There is also the possibility that No Labels, the centrist group, convinces a big-name candidate like outgoing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to run for president—something that would likely severely hurt Biden even more.
Third party candidates could be particularly bad for Biden in a place like Minnesota, which has a sizable Muslim population. Much like in Michigan, Islamic leaders in Minnesota have said that Biden’s handling of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel will cost Biden votes in their community–and these voters could drift to third party candidates like Stein or West, thereby undercutting any advantage Biden would have had over Trump otherwise.
Whether this is all a pipe dream or just a head-fake from Trump–or whether it’s the real deal and there is a seismic electoral college shift coming in November–will be something to watch closely as more data and polling drips out in the coming months.
More from Trump’s latest interview with Breitbart News is forthcoming.