Can the RNC Field Program Make Up for Trump’s Lack of Campaign Offices?

by Jim Geraghty

The good news for the GOP: The Republican National Committee “announced an additional 392 staff and 98 new offices for its nationwide field organization, bringing the total number of paid RNC field staff across the country to over 1,000. The RNC’s field program has been in battleground states since 2013 and currently has more staff in the field than at any point in the 2012 cycle.” 

The bad news: As of Aug. 30, Hillary Clinton has 291 offices in 15 battleground states. Donald Trump has 88. 

For comparison, back in 2012, Obama’s campaign had 790 campaign offices across the country, and 433 were in five states: Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Colorado. Mitt Romney’s campaign had 284 campaign offices, with 139 in those five key states.

Certainly, the Romney team concluded after the election that the difference in manpower contributed to their defeat.

Rich Beeson, the Romney political director who coauthored the now-discredited Ohio memo, said that only after the election did he realize what Obama was doing with so much manpower on the ground. Obama had more than 3,000 paid workers nationwide, compared with 500 for Romney, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

“Now I know what they were doing with all the staffs and offices,” Beeson said. “They were literally creating a one-to-one contact with voters,” something that Romney did not have the staff to match.

We’re about to learn just how much a candidate needs campaign offices in these swing states. When you see Hillary Clinton having 36 offices in Ohio and Trump only 16, or Hillary having 36 offices in Pennsylvania and Trump only having two, or Clinton having 34 offices in Florida and Trump having one… if the number of offices influences get-out-the-vote operations and total turnout, Trump should get blown out in those states. But right now the polls in those states look mixed-to-bad for Trump, but not abysmal. Emerson has them tied in Ohio and Clinton only up by 3 in Pennsylvania, and the last three polls in Florida have them within the margin of error.

Perhaps Trump doesn’t need to open many offices if the RNC ground game efforts will make up the slack.

In a year with such an unorthodox nominee, the lack of Trump campaign offices seems like a giant gamble. Maybe he’ll win by sheer force of personality, dominating the news coverage while conceding the commercial breaks. Maybe Trump’s instinct that data-driven get-out-the-vote efforts are “overrated” will be proven correct. But if Trump flops, and Republican turnout is below 2012, it will prove to be a painful lesson to the GOP and all future candidates that a campaign infrastructure really matters.

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