Donald Trump is taking a break from campaigning to formally open his new hotel in Washington DC, leaving his running mate to visit Utah, which has not backed a Democrat for president for 52 years.
The odd travel schedule a dozen days before the November 8 election illustrates a Republican ticket pulled in two directions while Democrat Hillary Clinton surges.
Mr Trump’s priority appears to be his personal brand and business, while Indiana governor Mike Pence tries to boost the ticket where no Republican should have to.
Mr Trump will visit North Carolina for two campaign rallies later, after spending the morning attending a ribbon cutting at the new 212 million dollar (€194m) hotel that bears his name at Washington’s Old Post Office Pavilion, not far from the White House.
Mr Pence is also stopping in the swing states of Nevada and Colorado before he heads on Thursday to solidly Republican Nebraska, a state that awards some of its electoral votes by congressional district.
His rally in Omaha may be aimed at shoring up support in the one district that Ms Clinton could win.
Spokesman Marc Lotter said Mr Pence’s Utah visit is more about favourable logistics than fears that the state could be slipping away. Mr Pence had already planned a Western swing that included a fundraiser in Utah, he said, adding that a rally was easy.
But Mr Trump cannot count on heavily Mormon Utah, last won by a Democrat when President Lyndon B Johnson carried the state in 1964. Many of the state’s top Republicans urged Mr Trump to abandon the race following the release of a 2005 recording on which the billionaire bragged about sexually accosting women.
That’s been a boon to independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent and graduate of Brigham Young University.
Ms Clinton, meanwhile, is holding two events in Florida, both aimed at encouraging voters in the state to cast an early ballot. It is her 69th birthday, a milestone she celebrated a day early on Univision’s entertainment news show El Gordo y La Flaca, where she was feted with a bottle of tequila and a large cake featuring her face and the White House.
She made no mention of the news from the Department of Health and Human Services that premiums for insurance under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law would rise sharply next year.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri conceded that “cost controls are a big concern for Hillary Clinton”.
She said the Democratic presidential nominee has a plan to lower insurance costs, “both through the public option and a Medicare buy-in”. She warned that Mr Trump’s plan would strip insurance from roughly 20 million Americans who now benefit.
He did not miss the opportunity to capitalise on the fresh political ammunition, insisting “Obamacare is just blowing up” during a series of campaign events on the final day of an extensive three-day swing through Florida.
“It’s killing our businesses. It’s killing our small businesses,” Mr Trump said during an evening rally in Tallahassee, without providing evidence for his claims. “And it’s killing individuals.”