By Luciana Lopez
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is focusing an effort to win over Asian American voters on three states where it believes the small but rapidly growing group could make the difference in her race against Republican Donald Trump.
The push in closely fought Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania follows a broader national effort by Clinton's campaign to court minorities who are critical to her chances of winning the White House in the Nov. 8 election.
Asians make up less than 3.5 percent of the U.S. population, but are the fastest-growing racial group in the country, according to the U.S. Census, due largely to net migration, making them more important than ever in an election.
“Secretary Clinton understands the importance of the AAPI community and has launched a program that reflects that, reaching AAPI voters in unprecedented ways,” said Jason Tengco, the Clinton campaign’s outreach director for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
The three states were targeted because Asian voters could swing the outcome in the tight races between Trump and Clinton there.
The effort will include print, digital and broadcast advertising in a handful of Asian languages and more coordination among volunteer groups representing ethnic communities within the Asian American and Pacific Islander group, according to the campaign.
Among the recent hires for the effort was Philip Kim, a Los Angeles native who previously worked with Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate, as outreach director for Asian American and Pacific Islander voters in Nevada.
The campaign did not say how much the three-state push would cost.
While small, the Asian population could eclipse the margin of victory in each of the states Clinton is targeting. Asians make up some 2.1 percent of eligible voters in Pennsylvania, 5 percent in Virginia and 9 percent in Nevada, according to APIAVote, a nonpartisan group.
Polling from Reuters/Ipsos shows Clinton with a mere 1 point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania, a 6 point lead in Virginia, and a 2 point lead in Nevada.
GETTING ASIANS TO THE POLLS
The challenge will be to get Asian Americans to the polls.
Asian American voters have tended to lean Democrat but register to vote much less frequently than whites and blacks. Asian registration was about 56.3 percent in 2012, according to the Census, versus 73.1 percent for black voters and 71.9 percent for white voters.
The number of Asian Americans voting in presidential elections rose from 2008 to 2012, according to the Census, which showed 4.3 million Asian voters in 2012 and a turnout of 47.9 percent.
“A big part of what we’re doing is voter registration,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Clinton spokeswoman.
Clinton's campaign has already done significant Asian outreach. It launched the "AAPI for Hillary" campaign to engage Asian voters in January and has done phone calling in a range of languages for months.
But the campaign said the latest push was the first with state-specific programs. The Clinton campaign is considering advertisements in Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Chinese.
A spokesperson for Trump's campaign did not respond to requests for comment about its Asian outreach.
The Trump campaign has, however, recently made some efforts to appeal to black and Latino voters to undercut Clinton, including a meeting on Thursday with Latino and black Republicans in New York.
Trump has had problems with minorities in the past and has angered some with his hardline anti-immigration rhetoric. He has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers over the border, vowed to build a wall to stop them and called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to shore up U.S. national security.
Clinton leads Trump by 12 percentage points nationally among likely voters, bolstered by minority support, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.
(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Cynthia Osterman)