If he wins the nomination, Mitt Romney will switch from organizational heavyweight to underdog.
Romney’s current operation — significantly larger than that of any of his GOP rivals — pales in comparison to the Obama apparatus. According to an Associated Press analysis, the president’s campaign has over 500 employees — about five times as many as Romney has now — and offices in 45 states.
“They just keep throwing out these huge numbers,” a Romney adviser notes. “My guess is that, other than trying to personally lower the unemployment rate, they have to hire a lot of people. They have to have an enormous operation to offset the fact that there are 24 million Americans out of work, gas is over $4 a gallon, and there’s a housing crisis.”
Concluding that Romney will benefit from “enthusiasm” among Republicans, the adviser continues, “We’re going to be able to go out and turn out our voters much more efficiently than they’re going to be able to turn out their voters.”
The Republican National Committee, which will be handling the ground game in the general election, is also gearing up. “By the time we get this thing fully funded, it will be the largest operation the RNC has ever put together,” says RNC political director Rick Wiley.
Wooing — and tracking — early voters will be a top priority, since about half of battleground states have early voting. “Colorado and Nevada are great examples, where 80 percent of the electorate will vote before Election Day,” Wiley says. “What that means is we have to get our voters identified well before Labor Day and then make sure they turn out.” The RNC will run extensive absentee-ballot and early-voter programs to achieve just that.
In a couple of weeks, the RNC will also roll out a new social platform that will provide lists of potential GOP voters in battleground states to fired-up Republicans from non-battleground states.
RNC staff also anticipate having an edge over the Obama campaign in base excitement. Wiley points to the fact that among certain key groups — including young adults, women, and Hispanic voters — Obama’s approval ratings have steeply declined, by 20 points or more. “They have to go back in and recreate this base, whereas our base is totally with us,” Wiley says. “So when we start our identification program, we’re starting right in with independents, so I think that gives us a leg up on the Obama campaign as we start this effort.”
The long primary, too, may confer some advantages in the general election — although whether those advantages outweigh the drubbing Romney’s favorability numbers have suffered is another question. “I think it’s been a positive,” a Romney adviser says. “The campaign organization has been able to get a lot of experience in a lot of these target states. We now have organizations and infrastructure in a number of states that will likely be presidential target states.” States that had competitive primaries and are also considered battleground states in the general election include Florida, Ohio, and Virginia.
“This primary has gone through a lot of battleground states,” Wiley says. “When that happens, the media loves to report on the fact that Mitt Romney is attacking Rick Santorum and Ron Paul’s attacking Newt Gingrich, and all that, but at the same time, the voters that are out there actually listening to these candidates in their stump speeches [and] the majority of the speech is dedicated to Barack Obama and how he’s failed the United States of America.”
“I think that’s the thing that helps us tremendously: These voters in these battleground states have heard about this president’s failed record over and over again,” Wiley adds. Whether that failed record will be enough to help Republicans surmount Obama’s organizational and likely fundraising advantages will be determined in November.
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.