Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will return to Maine for the fourth time this year as his campaign looks to put the historically Democratic-voting state in play.

Portland city officials confirmed Friday, after television news stations broke the story citing unnamed sources, that Trump will hold a campaign rally Thursday at the Portland Exposition Building. No other information was available.

The Trump campaign had not yet announced the trip as of 6 p.m. Friday. Maine Republican Party Chairman Jason Savage declined to comment on any upcoming visits and the Trump campaign’s state director, Christie-Lee McNally, did not return a call for comment.

Trump last visited Maine in August, when he held at rally at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. He previously visited Bangor in June and Portland in March, just before the statewide caucuses.

With five weeks to go until Election Day, polls show the real estate mogul in a close race with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.

Trump’s electoral strategy to pay attention to Maine, not traditionally a battleground state, is supported by polls that show him with strong support here, particularly in the northern, rural 2nd Congressional District.

A Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll of likely voters conducted Sept. 15-20 by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed Clinton with a 40 percent to 36 percent lead statewide, but had Trump with a 48-34 percent edge in the 2nd District.

Maine is one of two states – Nebraska is the other – that can split its electoral votes. Maine has four electoral votes up for grabs, one for each congressional district and two for winning the state overall.

Although Portland is squarely in the 1st District and is perhaps the most Democratic-leaning part of the state, Trump’s visit will no doubt draw supporters from all over Maine and media coverage will extend well into the parts of Maine where his support lies.

Clinton has not held any public events in Maine this year. She did appear last September at a rally at King Middle School.

Maine has never split its electoral votes. The last time the state voted for a Republican candidate was George H.W. Bush in 1988.

During his last visit to Maine, Trump focused most of his speech on the dangers of immigration – whether it was admitting refugees, asylum seekers or those who come here illegally. In Portland, he highlighted Somali refugees, linking them to crimes, which drew criticism.

Gov. Paul LePage, who has a similar brash style of politics, has been a strong Trump supporter, although he originally endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

LePage has appeared with Trump at each of his Maine events.

Trump’s visit to Maine next Thursday will be just three days before the second of three presidential debates between him and Clinton.

The first debate, held Monday, was the most-watched debate in television history. Most scientific polls and many political experts declared Clinton the victor, but Trump has been undeterred. He has criticized debate moderator Lester Holt of NBC News as biased and has hinted that he may attack Clinton about her husband’s infidelities at the next debate.

On Friday, Trump faced mounting criticism over his early-morning tweets in which he falsely claimed the existence of a sex tape featuring Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe whom Clinton talked about at this week’s debate to demonstrate Trump’s treatment of women.

Trump, though, has refused to dial back his criticism of Machado, who, he said, gained “a lot of weight” after being crowned Miss Universe. On Friday, he called her “disgusting” and said Clinton should be ashamed for talking about her at the debate.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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