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Donald Trump at Risk of Losing Arizona Despite State Party Support

In spite of the working relationship between state party officials and the Trump campaign, the operation lacks funding and staff.
Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Oct. 10, 2016 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

Three weeks until Election Day, the Trump campaign and the RNC are at risk of letting historically red Arizona slip away.

“I think he’s going to lose Arizona,” said Matthew Benson, a Republican state operative and former senior aide to Gov. Jan Brewer. “Barring something unforeseen, Trump is going to lose Arizona, and you’re still not seeing the type of activity you’d expect to see if he expects to save it.”

The campaign has placed few resources in the state. There are five staffers aiding Trump’s bid, paid for by a combination of the campaign, the RNC and the Arizona Republican Party.

Last month, both an Arizona Republic/Arizona State University poll and an NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll showed Trump and Clinton with a one percentage point margin of each other in the state.

This comes at the tail end of a week in which the Trump campaign effectively pulled out of Virginia and cut ties with Ohio’s state party chairman.

Related: Trump Campaign Struggles With Funding Woes, as State Operatives Complain

The campaign has not put up any broadcast TV or radio spots in Arizona, and it has committed just $15,000 for mailers for the remainder of this month and $7,000 for the final week of the campaign.

Asked if more funds directly from the campaign and the RNC are wanted and if they have been requested, a state GOP party official told NBC News: “Of course.”

“We’ll take anything,” the official said.

The state party has been the primary source of pro-Trump messaging, sending out multiple fliers on behalf of the party and Trump and placing calls to Republican voters. The state's party chairman, Robert Graham, has remained a vocal proponent of the GOP nominee, and the state treasurer, Jeff DeWit, serves as the national campaign’s chief operating officer.

The state party has had a tough balancing act as it remained committed to supporting the top of the ticket while the state’s two U.S. Senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, stood out as two of the most vocal critics of Trump.

The Trump campaign has dispersed more than 60,000 yard signs and has opened a campaign headquarters in Mesa for volunteers to work out of.

“Unlike in other states, there is a real fantastic working relationship between the RNC, the AZ GOP and the Trump campaign,” said Brian Seitchik, Trump’s state director.

But Benson, the Trump critic, said there is “no comparison” between the Trump efforts this year and those funded by Mitt Romney’s campaign four years ago. Multiple Republicans told NBC News they had not encountered any pro-Trump messaging.

“Romney actually had a campaign and a field operation,” Benson said. “Even though Arizona wasn’t at risk in 2012, they still had a good operation here because they wanted to run up numbers and raise a lot of money.”

Related: Clinton Holds 11-Point National Lead Over Trump: NBC/WSJ Poll

The party official acknowledged to NBC News that Clinton could win Arizona, an electorate that has voted for just one Democrat for president since 1952 — Bill Clinton in 1996.

Another GOP operative in the state said Clinton has a “real shot,” placing the odds of a Clinton win at 50 percent.

“It will be because Trump lost Arizona rather than because Clinton won it,” the operative asserted.

“We’re not Utah, but we have a sizable Mormon population,” the individual said. “So the problems he’s having there [in Utah] should mimic to a smaller degree in states like Arizona and Nevada. And it only takes a few degrees given his numbers in Arizona right now.”

With Trump’s own position in the state on shaky ground, the multiple Republicans expressed concern that Trump could ultimately suppress turnout for down ballot races.

“Between the fact it’s going to look like it’s over on Election Day and with Trump turning his fire on Republicans, every Republican is going to pay a price for what’s going on,” Benson said.

Those potential races in which Republicans may falter with unengaged voters could include the second congressional district, where Republican Rep. Martha McSally is running for her second term in the lean-blue district, as well as seats for the state legislature.

Arizonans, despite their Republican-voting track record, have deviated before, electing, for instance, Democrat Janet Napolitano as governor by sizable margins twice. And just four years ago, they nearly sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate over now-Sen. Jeff Flake, who won by four percentage points.

Benson added: “Anyone who thinks that Arizona is a conservative state in the same manner Idaho is a conservative state doesn’t understand the dynamics here.”

Trump and Pence have visited the state multiple times in recent months. Most recently, the nominee rallied in Prescott Valley, a late ploy to turn out his base of supporters in the state. And he has continued to align with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the once-popular, tough-on-immigration sheriff who is now facing criminal contempt charges by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign announced Sunday that Chelsea Clinton would campaign in Tempe on Wednesday, the same day as the third and final presidential debate, at an early vote rally at Arizona State University.